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Methane Fuel Cells

June 1, 2017

A deep sea microbe helps engineers convert methane to electricity.

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Transmission electron microscopy image of engineered M. acetivorans strain capturing methane. Thomas Wood, Penn State

Transmission electron microscopy image of engineered M. acetivorans strain capturing methane. (Thomas Wood, Penn State)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Charged up microbes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in natural gas, or methane, is wasted each year, through leaks in pipes. In the journal Nature Communications, Penn State engineer Thomas Wood and his colleagues report on a new method to convert methane into electricity out in the field, so it doesn’t need to be piped long distances. Wood explains that the technique relies on genes isolated from a deep sea, methane-eating microbe.

THOMAS WOOD (Pennsylvania State University):

And then we put those genes for capturing the methane into a bacterium that we could grow in the lab.

HIRSHON:

The resulting organism processed methane and produced electrons. The researchers combined that bacterium with others that could harness the electrons and transport them to create a useful current. Now their aim is to improve the efficiency of the cells to make them practical for use in the field. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon

 

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