by Northwestern University, May 9, 2019 in ScienceDaily
Discovery illuminates how bacteria turn methane gas into liquid methanol.
- Researchers have found that the enzyme responsible for the methane-methanol conversion in methanotrophic bacteria catalyzes the reaction at a site that contains just one copper ion. This finding could lead to newly designed, human-made catalysts that can convert methane — a highly potent greenhouse gas — to readily usable methanol with the same effortless mechanism.
- The study will publish on Friday, May 10 in the journal Science. Rosenzweig is the Weinberg Family Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Hoffman is the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry at Weinberg.
By oxidizing methane and converting it to methanol, methanotrophic bacteria (or “methanotrophs”) can pack a one-two punch. Not only are they removing a harmful greenhouse gas from the environment, they are also generating a readily usable, sustainable fuel for automobiles, electricity and more.
Current industrial processes to catalyze a methane-to-methanol reaction require tremendous pressure and extreme temperatures, reaching higher than 1,300 degrees Celsius. Methanotrophs, however, perform the reaction at room temperature and “for free”.