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Microbes Eat CO2, Make Fuel

When electricity flows at  a trickle pace, it’s not very useful for a lot of our high-power applications. That’s why, as we all know, finding a way to store that energy so that it can build up slowly over time is critically important.

One way to store that trickle is to run a chemical reaction that will leave us with some combustible fuel.  For example, scientists are working on catalysts that will make it easier to split water into O2 and H2 – the latter being combustible hydrogen - using electricity derived from photovoltaic power.

In the same vein, scientists recently developed a process called electromethanogensis.  If you break down the name, you see that the process involves generating methane (natural gas) from electricity.  How does this happen?  The answer lies in a species of bacteria known as Methanobacterium palustre (see the word “methane” in there?), which is buy cialis online australia able to chemically reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) into methane (CH4).

The bacteria is used as part of an electrolytic cell.  An electrolytic cell is the opposite of a battery – a battery takes two compounds that want to best price generic viagra react with each other and taps that potential in the form of electricity.  In an electrolytic cell, the electrons are pumped in and they drive the reaction uphill, so to speak.  In this case that uphill reaction is CO2 turning into CH4 (the opposite of the downhill version, which happens when we burn CH4, or any other fossil fuel).  The bacteria’s job is to catalyze the buy cialis online process, which means that you get a lot more natural gas for the same amount of electricity fed in.

What’s interesting is that the scientist primarily involved, Dr. Bruce Logan of the best site best quality levitra Penn State University, has also used bacteria for the opposite process – microbial fuel cells (in fact he wrote a book on the subject).  In that process, bacteria are harnessed to eat nasty molecules from sources such as municipal waste pools, break them down and release electric energy as a byproduct. 

This is the kind of thing that makes biological-based energy sources so intriguing.  In reality, bio-energy makes up a tiny fraction of all renewable energy out there, and some suggest that it will always be that way.  But in principle, bio-energy holds so much potential that it’s hard to say where the technology will be in 10 years from now.  We’ve been tweaking microbes to make drugs and natural products for a while, but we’ve only begun thinking about incorporating them into the energy infrastructure, be it in methane synthesis such as this, bio-diesel production or algae fuel.

Via Green Car Congress
Image via Penn State

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Comments (8)Add Comment
written by russ, March 31, 2009
Would be nice but CO2 is a very stable molecule and it is quite energy intensive to break the bonds between the C & O2 molecules. Maybe this is price of viagra the first step on the way though.

Be interesting to generic levitra on line uk have an idea of the energy input required.
Fuel for The Future
written by Uncle B, March 31, 2009
As America's Golden Age fades and cheap oil age ends, new fuels are brought forth in desperation, to save the giant empire from collapse, yet, collapse continues, even as old fossils like Rick Wagoner of GM are replaced with amazing efficiency, the damage continues. China and its formidable army of brilliant students and levitra perscription required cheap labor rises in great strength, yet unable to fuel itself with other than nuclear power and coal and its relics from the past stand strong and in control. Will civilization as we know it survive the fuel crunch? Not likely, and means of power conservation will be prioritized as parallel with population control, the next great American challenge. A bankrupting America is not a pretty sight, but the humanity there will press on in deep poverty and less than third world conditions, an elite riding their backs to resolve the difficulties of an idealized American Dream, long lost to the masses, and only a figment of the imaginations of those who strive to bring it to fruition, the new immigrant, the Asian intellectual. Quo Vades?
Methane as a greenhouse gas.
written by Tim, March 31, 2009
This is completely fascinating and awesome! It is my understanding, however, that Methane is a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2. Not sure I completely understand the intended uses of this bacterial process... Use to reduce CO2 would seem futile if it's creating a more potent greenhouse gas. Use as an alternative fuel would perhaps save us money or foreign dependence, but not reduce CO2 emissions, as burning that Methane would re-release the where to find cialis CO2.

Very cool, nonetheless!
Energy Storage
written by Murphy, March 31, 2009
Using CO2 to create Methane would be a form of Energy storage. Methane gas can also be processed into synthetic liquid fuels (however this has even higher energy costs). When the fues are combusted they have a net GHG emission of 0 assuming the energy used to buy viagra without prescription create the fuels are renewable.

Suff like this could be used in things like offshore wind farms, and remote locations, so rather than trying to tie renewable energy directly into the grid, you use renewable energy to create useful 0 emission fuel.

Alot of fans of renenewable energy seem to focus on efficeny but tend to gloss over the reliablity issues inherent in green power sources (you cannot make the wind blow when you want), when in reality reliability often trumps efficency in modern grid design. Generating fuel from renewables creates a buffer allowing greater renewable capacity without hurting reliability. I've always imagined a grid where renewables and excess grid capacity were used to create fuels that can be used to operate / offset the base grid power that is now largley powered by coal.
Carbon neutral
written by wow gold, April 01, 2009
Great, I am assuming the process is something like this

CO2 + 2H2O + Energy → CH4 + 2O2

So we store energy in methane for later use but where would we get this energy? Solar? Wind? It looks to me that its kinda useless if the viagra alternative energy source emits GHGs.

In combustion:

CH4 + 2O2 → CO2 + 2H2O + Energy

So the C02 input is the same as the C02 output after the entire process which to me looks like it has a carbon footprint of zero. Of course assuming 100% efficiency.

The advantage I see is that energy in the form of methane is generic cialis uk online pharmacy transportable and buy online prescription cialis can be stored unlike solar and wind. Lets just make sure the methane is properly contained and there is full combustion when using it because methane traps 20 times more heat heat than CO2.
written by KR, April 02, 2009
I am very much keen to we recommend viagra cheap know more about "Methanobacterium palustre" It is a bacteria. but when it was discovered and how?? Because people were not aware of this. and i am also agree that where did that bacteria is getting energy to convert or is there any other type chemical is coming out from that formation??
Thank you for the information. I am looking forward for ur rply. And i came across this blog through Toostep
written by dsads, April 04, 2009
I'm starting to think you guys believe CO2 isn't necessary for plant and human life to thrive. It seems like the cure to global warming is also the cause of mankind's extinction.
written by Mr Green, February 28, 2011
This is so interesting! Thanks for posting this. smilies/smiley.gif

The ability to store energy this way - it seems like it is a key feature for a solid energy resource for the future.

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