The bacteria can capture carbon dioxide and turn it into compounds that are not harmful to the environment via a process called ‘sequestration.’
Until now, researchers worldwide tried to design a system that can convert carbon dioxide into something harmless, but they failed to succeed because they needed a sturdy and heat tolerant enzyme.
Yet the bacteria called Thiomicrospira crunogena may solve the problem. The tiny microorganisms release an enzyme that is very tolerant to high temperatures since the bacteria thrive nearby hot hydrothermal vents
And researchers have been looking for a heat-tolerant enzyme that can neutralize industrial carbon dioxide emissions for years. Robert McKenna of the University of Florida College of Medicine explained that T. crunogena has an unusual tolerance to high temperatures and pressures on the seafloor.
Researchers also noted that the bacteria can easily adapt to circumstances in an industrial setting. The enzyme can covert carbon dioxide into harmless bicarbonate. The bicarbonate can be later recycled into baking soda or chalk. So it is a win-win scenario for highly-polluting industries.
Scientists even developed a technique to capture the enzyme. They dream of a huge reactor vessel which can be coated first with a solvent to trap the enzyme. Carbon dioxide-laden gases would interact with the solvent and be converted into bicarbonate.
But neutralizing large amounts of carbon dioxide also need huge quantities of the enzyme. So, researchers had to develop a method to produce the enzyme in a laboratory, rather than trying to harvest it from the bottom of the ocean.
Scientists explained that the tiny molecule can be artificially produced by genetically altering E.coli bacteria. Until now, the team was able to extract only a few milligrams of the enzyme, so they need to find a way to boost productivity.
This is one of the final steps before the enzyme can be put to work on industrial scale. Researchers also need to make it more effective in retaining carbon dioxide. Yet, its heat tolerance makes it the perfect candidate for the job.
But before seafloor bacteria may help us neutralize greenhouse gas on an industrial scale the team needs to find ways to make the bacteria retain pollutants faster and convert them in a more efficient way. Furthermore, scientists also need to improve the microorganisms and make them more stable and durable.
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