The bacterium, which is being researched by University of Florida researchers could be the answer to Global Warming. The bacterium that lives near hydrothermal vents and produces enzymes can survive at high temperatures. It resides at the bottom of the oceans and is used to extreme temperatures and crushing pressures.
Carbon Dioxide (greenhouse gas), which is the major component, released after the combustion of fossil fuel is the major cause of global warming and can be captured and then neutralized in a process aptly named sequestration.
The process of converting the Carbon Dioxide into a harmless substance needs an enzyme that is durable and also heat tolerant. And, it’s here the new bacterium comes into the picture.
The bacterium is named Thiomicrospira crunogena, and it produces carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that normally removes carbon dioxide from the organism’s body. This bacterium is native to hydrothermal vents, which means the enzyme it produces is at home at high temperatures. The enzyme will work in the process of reducing industrial carbon dioxide and converting it into harmless by-product.
In a news release Robert McKenna, one of the researchers said that these bacteria have evolved to become resistant to extreme temperatures and pressures which is the conditions at the hydrothermal vents where these bacteria reside.
In the chemical reaction that is termed carbon sequestration, the carbonic anhydrase enzyme acts as a catalyst in the reaction between carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide first interacts with enzyme and changes it into bicarbonate and can be further processed into chemicals such as baking soda and chalk.
The only problem in the process was the need to harvest regularly the bacteria from the ocean floor. The scientists found out a way for this. They discovered that the enzyme could be produced by a special genetically engineered version of E.coli bacteria. The heat stability of the enzyme is also excellent butt the process is not very efficient.
Scientists are working to create a variant of the enzyme that will be heat stable and had a higher level of efficiency, which can be used in an industrial setup.