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 Navigational view of the brain thanks to powerful X-rays
18.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient
18.10.2017 | KU Leuven

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>