A type of bacteria found at the bottom of the ocean could be used to neutralise large amounts of industrial carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, researchers have found. Most atmospheric CO is produced from fossil fuel combustion.
But converting the carbon dioxide into a harmless compound requires a durable, heat-tolerant enzyme. The bacterium, Thiomicrospira crunogena, studied by researchers from University of Florida, produces carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that helps remove CO in organisms.
The bacterium lives near hydrothermal vents, so the enzyme it produces is accustomed to high temperatures.
That is exactly what is needed for the enzyme to work during the process of reducing industrial CO, said Robert McKenna at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
The enzymecatalyses a chemical reaction between CO and water.
The CO interacts with the enzyme, converting the greenhouse gas into bicarbonate. The bicarbonate can then be further processed into products such as baking soda and chalk.
According to the UF researchers, which included graduate research assistants Brian Mahon and Avni Bhatt, in an industrial setting the carbonic anhydrase would be immobilised with solvent inside a reactor vessel that serves as a large purification column.
Flue gas would be passed through the solvent, with the carbonic anhydrase converting the carbon dioxide into bicarbonate.