Biofuels, synthetic fuels, are made from plants that use photosynthesis to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but what if we could remove the middlemanplant?
Biofuels are essentially carbon-neutral, because they release the same amount of carbon dioxide that was sequestered by the plants that the fuel is synthesized from. Making synthetic fuel by this process though, is complicated and inefficient.
Researchers at University of Georgia have found that there may be a way to remove plants from the equation and simply synthesize fuel directly from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Instead of using photosynthetic plant processes, researchers have turned to the chemosynthetic bacteria that are best known for populating and thriving around deep-sea thermal vents and sea-level hot springs.
Chemosynthetic bacteria such as Pyrococcus Furiosus, rushing fireball, don’t need sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds, but do so in temperatures exceeding 800°F on the pitch-black sea floor. By tweaking the genetic structure of P. Furiosus, researchers succeeded in using it to convert carbon dioxide, at much lower temperatures, into 3-hydroxypropionic acid, a common industrial chemical.
Further genetic tweaks could produce any number of other chemical compounds, including synthetic fuel, directly from atmospheric carbon dioxide. “We can take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and turn it into useful products like synthetic fuels and chemicals without having to go through the inefficient process of growing plants and extracting sugars from biomass,” remarked professor Michael Adams.