Report: ocean bacteria can neutralize industrial pollution

A team of researchers from the University of Florida have discovered that a bacteria found deep in the ocean can be used to neutralize carbon dioxide pollution, which commonly results from burning fossil fuels. The bacteria is called Thiomicrospira crunogena, and it produces an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase, which converts the captured carbon dioxide into something harmless. In this case, the enzyme is particularly capable of handling high temperatures, an important aspect of any suitable solution.

The enzyme is able to handle high temperatures because the bacteria from which it originates is found near hydrothermal vents, which are naturally high in temperature and pressure. The university explains the enzyme's use with carbon dioxide, saying it turns the pollution into bicarbonate by causing a chemical reaction to happen between water and the carbon dioxide. That bicarbonate can then be used for beneficial — and non-harmful — products like chalk or baking soda.

Researchers anticipate the enzyme could be captured in a solvent and placed within a reactor vessel of some sort, where it will function as a so-called "purification column." As gas from the flue travels up, it will have to go through the solvent, which will — with the enzyme — cause a reaction that turns the carbon dioxide into bicarbonate.

Even better, due to the high amounts such industrial applications would require, the researchers came up with a way to make the relevant enzyme sans constant ocean harvesting. In this case, the enzyme can be made in a lab from a genetically altered form of E. coli. For it to suitable for industrial use, though, very large amounts of the enzyme will have to be produced.

SOURCE: University of Florida