Harvard chemists have designed a bacterium capable of taking up carbon dioxide and hydrogen and excreting various types of alcohol fuels, which can be used with biomass as an energy source.
In an intervention at the Energy Policy Institute in Chicago, Daniel Nocera also explained that the research he has directed will soon be published in the journal Science.
Nocera rose to prominence five years ago when he and his team who had created an artificial leaf that could be used to generate hydrogen for use as fuel, an idea that did not lead to hydrogen fuel cells to displace gasoline in automobiles. , as he had expected. Now he has his sights set on providing a good source of fuel for areas without electricity.
The new bacterium, which has been named eutropha-Ralston, was first produced (through genetic engineering) to take up carbon dioxide and hydrogen, which is used to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), as is done with plants. .
The team then went further, to then convert ATP to various types of alcohols (isopentanol, isobutanol, isopropanol) that were then excreted. Nocera claimed that when the bacteria reproduced, clusters of them were able to produce alcohols with an efficiency of 6 percent, and biomass with an efficiency of 10.6 percent (comparison plants are about 1 percent efficient in the conversion of sunlight and carbon dioxide into biomass), Forbes reports.
Warned that some may see masses of such bacteria emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a possible solution to global warming - partly derived from the excess of this gas in the atmosphere - Nocera suggests that this is not the main purpose, but rather give people in need a source of energy based on burning alcohol and biomass, which of course returns carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, making it a carbon neutral resource.
He ended his presentation with the announcement that he and his team are currently looking for investors to bring technology to rural areas of India where it is sorely needed.