Electricity eating bacteria produce methane

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Sun 29th Jul, 2012

Did you know some microbes can actually convert electricity into methane gas? They are called methanogens, and now researchers from Stanford and Pennsylvania State universities, in the USA, are raising billions of them to make methane farms. Their goal is to make a new and important source of renewable energy out of these microorganisms, by transforming electricity from wind, solar, or nuclear sources into renewable methane fuel. "Most of today's methane is derived from natural gas, a fossil fuel," said Dr. Alfred Spormann, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. "Our microbial approach would eliminate the need for using these fossil resources."

So what is the big deal? Well, it turns out that our electricity-storing technology is not very efficient and a great deal of the electricity generated by wind farms and other "green technologies" goes to waste. Methane-producing microbes could help convert this electricity into very useful methane gas, which is a key component of natural gas, used all around the world. "Right now there is no good way to store electricity," Dr. Spormann said. "If we can engineer methanogens to produce methane at scale, it will be a game changer."

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