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Bacteria Could Speed CO2 Mineralization in Underground Sequestration

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Underground-living, rock-eating bacteria

Many things have been written about CO2 sequestration and many experiments have been carried in recent years that could easily confirm one thing: it’s expensive, not so efficient as it had been thought and people realized we really don’t know all the side effects of this technology.

A type o bacteria, however, could save CO2 sequestration from reaching the sandbox. Transported into porous rock underground, CO2 could be fixed by bacteria much faster. The microbes could speed up the mineralization of CO2 with positively-charged atoms (cations), process which would form carbonate minerals, which would definitely trap the greenhouse underground.

“Previous studies have shown that underground bacteria remain in the rock after CO2 injection. We know these microbes can impact how minerals form, leading us to wonder if they also affect the rate of mineralization,” says NCGC biochemist Jenny Cappuccio. “And if bacteria could enhance the nucleation of carbonate minerals, then perhaps we could fine-tune that ability in the laboratory.”

The researchers have observed that different surface bacteria accelerate the formation of calcium carbonate, and that the rule applied to all of the species. However, microbes whose surfaces have a protein shell known as “S-layer” are better candidates.

They engineered artificial S-layers and attached six aminoacids by increasing their negative charge. The calcification effect had been significantly increased.

So carbon sequestration might make some economical and scientific sense, after all… all we need now is to capture existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – another money-consuming job that has been found unreasonable if done outside the factories which pollute most. If done at the output of furnaces, things change for the better and the capturing efficiency is much higher.

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