Researchers from the University of Florida have discovered that deep-sea critters can remove greenhouse gas. A small bacteria residing on the ocean’s floor can be used in order to remove a large quantity of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
According to the study, the largest contributors to the building of greenhouse gas seem to be the large industrial enterprises. But using this tiny critter we can help Mother Nature a bit. The process of capturing and neutralizing greenhouse gas is rather complicated but it all boils down to some simple chemistry. Flue gas, or what happens after fossil fuel combusts, can be retained and neutralized by a process called sequestration. What do you need in order for this sequestration process to produce results? Let’s get back to our littler superhero.
Dr. Robert McKenna, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, explains that in order to transform carbon dioxide into something less life-threatening, we need an enzyme that has a high resistance to heat. That’s where the sea critter comes in. Apparently, he lives near hydrothermal vents, which makes him resilient to high temperatures. Moreover, the enzyme he produces is perfect for making the sequestration process work.
Let’s get back to some more chemistry. The enzyme produced by the deep-sea critters, better known as carbonic anhydrase, determines catalytic reaction between carbon dioxide and water. Now this is where it gets even trickier. The surrounding carbon dioxide comes in and interacts with the critter’s enzyme, resulting in the conversion of greenhouse gas into bicarbonate. So, basically deep-sea critters can remove greenhouse gas, if the setting is favorable.
The implications are numerous. We can use this simple chemical process in order to extract as much bicarbonate from the atmosphere as we want and turning it into everyday items such as baking soda or even chalk.
Although the initial results seem promising, researchers now have to figure out a way to take this process to a whole new level and implement it on an industrial scale. Avni Bhatt, research assistant in McKenna’ group said that the team still has to work on the enzyme’s efficiency and further increase its stability and heat resistance.
The team already managed to produce several milligrams of this new compound in the laboratory by back engineering a strain of E-coli, but they are still far away from producing enough to use on an industrial scale. McKenna said that genetically engineered enzymes could made the process more efficient without having to go back all the time to harvest critters from the bottom of the ocean.
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