These are scientists from University of California, Irvine, who have discovered an efficient method to transform carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide that can be adapted for commercial applications, such as biofuel synthesis.
Headed by Yilin Hu, UCI assistant lecturer of molecular biology and biochemistry at the Ayala School of Biological Sciences, the scientists found that they could successfully express the reductase element of the nitrogenase enzyme alone in the bacterium Azotobactervinelandii and directly employ such bacterium to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. The intracellular environment of the bacterium was introduced to favour the conversion of carbon dioxide in a way that would be more feasible to the future development of strategies for big-scale production of CO.
Such findings were surprising to the group, as nitrogenase was just previously believed to transform nitrogen to ammonia within the bacterium under similar conditions. Hu and her team members knew that the intracellular environment of the bacterium Azotobactervinelandii favours other reduction reactions, due in part to its well – known oxygen protection function and presence of physiological electron donors. But they were not sure if the intracellular environment would support the conversion of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide.
They were triggered to identify that the bacterium could diminish carbon dioxide and release CO as a product that makes it an attractive entire cell system that could be enhanced further for novel ways of recycling atmospheric carbon dioxide into biofuels and other commercial chemical products. Such findings of Hu’s team establish the nitrogenase enzyme as an interesting template for introducing approaches to energy – effective and environment – friendly fuel production.
“Our observation that the bacterium can transform CO2 to CO opens up novel opportunities for biotechnological adaptation of such reaction into a procedure that efficiently recycles the greenhouse gas into the beginning substance for biofuel synthesis that will support us simultaneously overcome two major limitations we experience now-a-days – energy shortages and global warming,” says Hu.
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