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Deep Sea Volcano Bacteria mop up CO2 emissions

Carbonic Anhydrase of T. crunogena (Mahnon et al., 2015) and Hydrothermal Vent showing the hostile environments where these bacteria are found (www.joncopley.com).

This week, scientists have found that deep-sea bacteria living at high temperature deep-sea volcanoes could have the answer to our carbon emissions woes.

Fossil fuels account for 80% of the world’s total energy, despite the detrimental effects of CO2 increases on climate change.

For this reason, biological methods of “carbon scrubbing” to remove CO2 from emissions are heavily researched.

Schematic of a Carbonic Anhydrase-solvent based system for Carbon Scrubbing. (Mahnon et al., 2015).

Schematic of a Carbonic Anhydrase-solvent based system for Carbon Scrubbing. (Mahnon et al., 2015).

There is a type of enzyme found in organisms called Carbonic Anhydrases (CAs). They are dubbed “bio-catalytic agents” because they are being studied for their ability to remove CO2 produced in industry.

Until now, study success has been limited by the fact that the enzymes they have studied “denature” (break-down) at high temperatures. The best studied CA is from humans, and so function best at a measly 37 degrees! This is no use for carbon scrubbing technologies which will have to operate under high industrial temperatures.

This is why these little extremophiles, T. crunogena, are of such interest. They are found at deep-sea hydrothermal vents where temperatures are very high, reaching up to 350 degrees at super-hot vents! Because the bacteria live very close to the hot vent fluid, their CA enzymes have a high thermal stability and can operate up at 72 degrees!

Maybe we should think about the potential our deep sea holds for the human race before we destroy the last great wilderness of our planet with pollution and deep-sea mining…

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