Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Engineer New Methane-Production Pathway in Microorganism

09.12.2010
Research opens door to possible conversion of biomass to natural gas

A University of Arkansas researcher and his colleagues have created the first methane-producing microorganism that can metabolize complex carbon structures, which could lead to microbial recycling of waste products and their transformation into natural gas.

Daniel J. Lessner, assistant professor of biological sciences, and his colleagues Lexhan Lhu, Christopher S. Wahal and James G. Ferry of Pennsylvania State University, published their findings in mBio. Lessner conducted the research as a postdoctoral associate at Penn State.

While methane gas is considered to be a greenhouse gas, it also is an important biofuel, used to power businesses and homes. Finding ways to produce methane gas efficiently therefore interests individuals and industries alike.

Lessner and his colleagues worked with methanogens, methane-producing anaerobic microorganisms from the domain archaea that are thought to date back further in time than any other life form.

“Methanogens are the only organisms that produce methane biologically, but they are limited in what they can use to produce methane,” said Lessner. In nature, a consortium of anaerobic microorganisms break down carbon-rich items, such as leaves in a pond, into simple molecules consisting of one or two carbon atoms, which methanogens then consume, producing methane in the process. Because this process involves multiple species, it can be easily disrupted, and would not be an efficient way to mass-produce methane gas.

Lessner and his colleagues decided to introduce a gene into a methanogen that would allow it to break down more complex molecules for its own consumption. To do this, they introduced a gene into the DNA of the methanogen Methanosarcina acetivorans that expresses an enzyme that breaks down esters, which are found in nature and also solvents used in paints and paint thinners.

After introducing the enzyme into the methanogen, the researchers demonstrated that M. acetivorans grew, consumed almost all of the esters, and produced methane from them.

“This establishes a platform to begin engineering these organisms to consume different substrates,” Lessner said. This engineered pathway expands the narrow range of substrates used by methanogens, which may lead to more efficient conversion of biomass to methane gas. While esters might not work at an industrial scale, it might be possible to engineer a methanogen that can break down glycerol, a waste product from biodiesel fuel, and have it produce methane.

CONTACTS:
Daniel J. Lessner, assistant professor, biological sciences
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-2239, lessner@uark.edu
Melissa Lutz Blouin, director of science and research communications
University Relations
479-575-5555, blouin@uark.edu

Melissa Lutz Blouin | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.uark.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

nachricht Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

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.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

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.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>