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A breakthrough in climate research: American researchers discovered microbes that eat carbon dioxide

A breakthrough in climate research: American researchers discovered microbes that eat carbon dioxide

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Scientists have discovered a new innovation to reduce carbon dioxide. They have identified bacteria capable of converting carbon dioxide into rocks.

Sanford/Florida – To fight Climate change Moving forward, scientists are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to bind carbon dioxide. One idea is to store carbon dioxide underground. A big challenge because it is a gas at room temperature. Therefore, America is investing in research aimed at finding ways to store greenhouse gases in deep caves or rock layers. A team from the Sanford Underground Research Facility in the US is now celebrating a major milestone by discovering microbes that can convert carbon dioxide into rocks.

Bacteria are supposed to convert underground carbon dioxide into rocks

The biggest difficulty in researching carbon dioxide storage is retaining the gas in the rock layers after pumping it out. Gokce K explains: Ostonicek, a professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at South Dakota Mines In a press release from the research institution: “For example, if a geological fault occurs or if there is a change in pressure after the first pumping at the surface, the stored gas will search for an outlet.”

Therefore, researchers search for rock layers with specific geochemical properties that can dissolve the gas and turn it into carbonate minerals through the process of “in situ mineralization.” However, this process inherently takes seven to ten years – a very long period of time.

Ten years to ten days: Carbon dioxide can be quickly turned into rock by bacteria

Now the discovery at Sanford's underground research facility could dramatically accelerate this process. Ten days to be exact. The team was able to isolate natural microbes that absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into solid rocks. This process is called “carbon mineralization.”

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This rapid conversion under extreme underground conditions could help trap more carbon dioxide in storage sites, such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs.

Converting carbon dioxide from laboratory experiments to extreme underground conditions

Ostonicek describes her approach as follows: “[…] As a first step, develop laboratory experiments to understand the optimal conditions such as pressure, temperature, time, acidity and grain size needed for mineralization without the help of bacteria. The circumstances have not previously been investigated.”

She continues: “We then tested several microbes that can adapt to underground conditions. Finally, we tested how quickly mineralization occurs in bacteria by performing parallel experiments with and without biological activity. We have found that we can store carbon dioxide by crystallizing the magnesite mineral MgCO3 in just ten days in microbial tolerance experiments. The process of biological conversion of carbon dioxide into rock.

After years of research, scientists discovered carbon dioxide-eating bacteria. (Avatar) © Horst Rudel/IMAGO

Years of research in a multidisciplinary team are paying off

Behind these results is not only funding from the National Science Foundation worth $300,000 (about 277,930.50 euros), but also years of research by an interdisciplinary team that includes microbiologists, geochemists, and ecologists.

“This not only helps solve the climate crisis, but also has the potential to stimulate economic development through microbially accelerated carbon sequestration,” said Brett Lingwall, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Mainz. This discovery could help reduce the effects of climate change. The research team have now applied for a patent for their findings, which could influence further publications. (YH)

The editor wrote this article and then used an AI language model to improve at her own discretion. All information has been carefully checked. Find out more about our AI principles here.