The bacteria that destroy about one-third of the potent greenhouse gas methane before it can reach the atmosphere use a neat trick to gather a key nutrient for the job. They produce a small organic compound and release it into the surrounding environment, where it "lassos" atoms of copper. The bacteria then reabsorb the compound and use the copper as a weapon against methane, from which they extract energy. The crystal structure of the compound--called methanobactin--will be reported in the Sept. 10 issue of Science. The research was led by Hyung J. Kim, who did much of the work as a graduate student at the University of Kansas and is now a postdoctoral associate at the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.
Methanobactin may have antibacterial properties, and its ability to absorb copper may find application in the semiconductor industry, which needs copper-free water. The bacteria that make methanobactin are quite common. "These bacteria are often found in rice paddies and wetlands," said Kim. "Methane is produced in the bottom muck and diffuses into the water, where these bacteria live. The bacteria sequester the methane and turn it into methyl alcohol."
According to estimates made in the 1990s, the amount of methane produced from all sources worldwide is about 120 billion tons per year, said Kim. About 40 percent comes from paddies and wetlands, and the methane-eating bacteria, known as methanotrophs, remove 80 to 90 percent of it. That translates to a methane diet of close to 43 billion tons a year.
Deane Morrison | EurekAlert!
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
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In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
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The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
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Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
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The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
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