Creating Methanogen MicrobesCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: August 1, 2012 07:13PM
An important issue to overcome for renewable energy sources like solar and wind power is how to store any excess energy they produce. Large-scale power storage systems are still in development and even if they existed now, the problem of getting that power where it needs to be will exist, as it currently does with other power sources. Researchers at Stanford University and Pennsylvania State University have a possible solution in mind which not only will solve the issue of energy storage, but do so cleanly, efficiently, and overcome some transportation issues.
Methanogens are special microbes that take carbon dioxide directly from the air and convert it to methane, using an electric current. In 2009, testing with these organisms achieved 80% efficiency in converting electricity to methane. What the researchers propose, after some hurdles are overcome, is to use bioreactors containing methanogen colonies to produce methane directly from the atmosphere and the power from renewable power sources, or other carbon neutral sources. The methane can then be transported using the same methods to move natural gas we have now and only burned when needed.
As the CO2 used to create the methane would come from the atmosphere, when the methane is burned and releases CO2, the net impact on the atmosphere is no new CO2 was added. However this may not just be used to create methane for fuel purposes. The hydrocarbon could also be used to produce other chemicals that currently require fossil resources, such as some plastics and gasoline.