A newly discovered deep-sea bacteria could help in reducing large amounts of industrial carbon dioxide. The bacteria was discovered during a study by a group of researchers from the University of Florida.
Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, and carbon neutralization would require a durable, heat-tolerant enzyme. The enzyme produced by the bacteria Thiomicrospira crunogena will be able to convert the harmful gas into benign compound. These bacteria grow near hydrothermal vents, making them an ideal source. Researchers said that the enzyme carbonic anhydrase can absorb carbon dioxide from organisms.
“The little critter has evolved to deal with those extreme temperatures and pressure problems,” said Robert McKenna, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the UF College of Medicine.
McKenna added that the bacteria has already adapted to deal with those extreme temperature and pressure problems. At an industrial level, researchers believe that carbonic anhydrase could be immobilized with a solvent into a reactor that serves as a purification column. When flue gas is passed through the solvent, the enzyme converts carbon dioxide into harmless bicarbonate. McKenna and his team have also discovered a way to harvest the bacteria from the sea floor, and they would create the enzyme with a genetically engineered version if E. coli bacteria.
When carbon dioxide is converted into bicarbonate, they can be used for processing materials such as baking soda and salt. However, co-author Avni Bhatt said that the bacteria’s efficiency in converting carbon dioxide is slow, despite its good heat tolerance. Researchers aim to create a fast-acting and heat-tolerant variant of the enzyme. The team would also work on making the enzyme more stable and increasing its lifespan. The findings have been published in the journals Acta Crystallographica D: Biological Crystallography and Chemical Engineering Science.