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Making methane with bacteria

By Tim Sandle     Nov 29, 2013 in Science
Scientists have looked at how bacteria work together to anaerobically digest biomass to produce methane gas, which is important in bioenergy and could be linked to the new generation of biofuels.
Although scientists have known that certain types of bacteria produce methane, it is only recently that they have been studying the mechanisms in more detail. One reason is because the bacteria are a source of greenhouse gases, and the other reason is linked to the projects designed to create new types of biofuels.
For the latest research, scientists have looked at the methane-producing bacterium Methanosaeta. The scientists have discovered that this particular bacterium has the ability to reduce carbon dioxide to methane. They do this by making electrical connections with other microorganisms.
From this research, scientists aim to optimize methane production from wastes. The first phase of future studies is set to include crating large anaerobic biodigesters in order to more efficiently process landfill waste in a way that is less polluting. Longer term, some of this waste could be harnessed for fuel production.
The research was carried out at Derek Lovley's lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The findings have been published in the British Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Energy and Environmental Science. The paper is titled “A new model for electron flow during anaerobic digestion: direct interspecies electron transfer to Methanosaeta for the reduction of carbon dioxide to methane”.
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