Fossil fuels have played an important role in our lives throughout human history, but it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that they were extracted so widely. And in the short period of time since then, we’ve consumed an astonishing amount of them, with little remaining and a climate seriously impacted.
It took millions of years to create these incredibly dense forms of energy, but once they have been depleted, they’ll be gone for good. This truth has been overlooked for years, but as our consumption — and pollution — increases exponentially each year and the very real possibility of depletion looms ahead, more people are seeking out alternate solutions to our energy demands.
A new genetically engineered bacteria can take CO2 out of the air and convert it into energy, which may help preserve our fossil fuels.
The bacteria, which, unfortunately, cannot help with our CO2 problem because it works on too small of a scale, was genetically engineered to absorb hydrogen and carbon dioxide and convert them into alcohol fuel. The hope was to produce enough efficiency to surpass plants, which they achieved. The researchers also recently announced that the bacteria can even convert sunlight 10 times more efficiently than plants.
“Right now we’re making isopropanol, isobutanol, isopentanol,” explained lead researcher Daniel G Nocera from Harvard University. “These are all alcohols you can burn directly. And it’s coming from hydrogen from split water, and it’s breathing in CO2. That’s what this bug’s doing.”
Called Ralston eutropha, the bacteria takes hydrogen and CO2 and transforms it into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by way of a gene insertion that permits the ATP to be converted to alcohol fuel.
The results, which will soon be published, will hopefully get more people excited over the idea of the unlimited practical applications of a bacteria that can breathe in CO2 and produce energy.