Methane from microbes: a fuel for the future

December 10, 2007

Microbes could provide a clean, renewable energy source and use up carbon dioxide in the process, suggested Dr James Chong at a Science Media Centre press briefing today.

“Methanogens are microbes called archaea that are similar to bacteria. They are responsible for the vast majority of methane produced on earth by living things” says Dr Chong from York University. “They use carbon dioxide to make methane, the major flammable component of natural gas. So methanogens could be used to make a renewable, carbon neutral gas substitute.”

Methanogens produce about one billion tonnes of methane every year. They thrive in oxygen-free environments like the guts of cows and sheep, humans and even termites. They live in swamps, bogs and lakes. “Increased human activity causes methane emissions to rise because methanogens grow well in rice paddies, sewage processing plants and landfill sites, which are all made by humans.”

Methanogens could feed on waste from farms, food and even our homes to make biogas. This is done in Europe, but very little in the UK. The government is now looking at microbes as a source of fuel and as a way to tackle food waste in particular.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. “By using methane produced by bacteria as a fuel source, we can reduce the amount released into the atmosphere and use up some carbon dioxide in the process!”

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: Earth's extremes point the way to extraterrestrial life

Related Stories

Earth's extremes point the way to extraterrestrial life

August 26, 2015

Bizarre creatures that go years without water. Others that can survive the vacuum of open space. Some of the most unusual organisms found on Earth provide insights for Washington State University planetary scientist Dirk ...

Another milestone in hybrid artificial photosynthesis

August 25, 2015

A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory developing a bioinorganic hybrid approach to artificial photosynthesis have achieved another milestone. Having generated ...

On warmer Earth, most of Arctic may remove, not add, methane

August 17, 2015

In addition to melting icecaps and imperiled wildlife, a significant concern among scientists is that higher Arctic temperatures brought about by climate change could result in the release of massive amounts of carbon locked ...

Using fungi to harvest microalgae for biofuels

August 21, 2015

Microalgae are a promising feedstock for biofuels, but current methods of harvesting and dewatering them are unsustainable. Now researchers have shown that growing the algae with certain filamentous fungi to form lichens ...

Boreal forests challenged by global change

August 20, 2015

Management of boreal forests needs greater attention from international policy, argued forestry experts from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Natural Resources Canada, and the University of ...

Recommended for you

For 2-D boron, it's all about that base

September 2, 2015

Rice University scientists have theoretically determined that the properties of atom-thick sheets of boron depend on where those atoms land.

At Saturn, one of these rings is not like the others

September 2, 2015

When the sun set on Saturn's rings in August 2009, scientists on NASA's Cassini mission were watching closely. It was the equinox—one of two times in the Saturnian year when the sun illuminates the planet's enormous ring ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.