Blood Enzyme Could Help Realize Clean Coal

December 3, 2009 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Carbonic anhydrase
A ribbon diagram of carbonic anhydrase, which isolates carbon dioxide in the lungs for exhalation. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

( -- An enzyme in our blood that enables our lungs to exhale carbon dioxide could be the key to isolating carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants in order to store them safely underground. A company called Carbozyme, based in New Jersey, is developing a synthetic version of the blood enzyme that could capture carbon dioxide using one-third less energy than other methods.

The blood enzyme, called carbonic anhydrase, is constantly converting and reconverting as part of our respiration process. At first, cells pump carbon dioxide into the blood, where carbonic anhydrase converts the into bicarbonate to make it easier to transport to the lungs. Then, in the lungs, the same enzyme converts the bicarbonate back into carbon dioxide to be exhaled. Carbonic anhydrase works very efficiently, capturing about two pounds of carbon dioxide per day.

By mimicking the way this blood enzyme separates carbon dioxide from other gases in the body, researchers at Carbozyme have demonstrated how to capture and separate carbon dioxide from a wide variety of gas emissions, such as those from coal stacks. Isolating carbon dioxide is essential for sequestering the underground, where it can be stored in layers of basalt rock. In addition to using less energy, the synthetic enzyme method also avoids using hazardous chemicals that some other gas separation methods use.

Carbozyme plans to test the technology on coal burners at the University of North Dakota next year, and eventually license the method to coal plants. The company says that the design can also be tailored for different applications, such as in the food and beverage industry and .

Image credit: Carbozyme, Inc.

More information:
via: Popular Science

© 2009

Explore further: New German coal power plant to capture CO2

Related Stories

Carbon capture has a sparkling future

April 1, 2009

( -- New research shows that for millions of years carbon dioxide has been stored safely and naturally in underground water in gas fields saturated with the greenhouse gas. The findings - published in Nature today ...

Synthetic Tree Captures Carbon 1,000 Faster Than Real Trees

July 9, 2009

( -- Scientists have designed a synthetic tree that traps carbon dioxide from the air in an attempt to combat growing emissions. The device looks less like a tree and more like a small building, but it can collect ...

Recommended for you

Organic semiconductors get weird at the edge

October 6, 2015

As the push for tinier and faster electronics continues, a new finding by scientists at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Monash University could help inform the design of the next generation of cheaper, more efficient ...

New polymer creates safer fuels

October 1, 2015

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact. Researchers ...

Researchers print inside gels to create unique shapes

September 30, 2015

(—A team of researchers at the University of Florida has taken the technique of printing objects inside of a gel a step further by using a highly shear-rate sensitive gel. In their paper published in the journal ...


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.