Summary: In a new report, engineered microbes can now be utilized to store energy, and several other applications.
FREMONT, CA: The biggest issue of recent times is the storage of energy, especially in large-scale. The solution for storing energy at a low financial and environmental cost does not exist at present.
Engineered electroactive microbes have highlighted the scope of being the solution via its capacity of sharing an electron from solar or wind electricity and applying the energy to separate carbon dioxide molecules from the atmosphere. The microbes have the potential to convert the carbon atoms to make biofuels like isobutanol, and propanol can power or be burned in a generator or mixed to gasoline.
The researchers elucidate the significant role biology plays in creating an infrastructure for sustainable energy management. Even though the majority of the roles are supportive, quite some roles play a huge part.
By adding electrically engineered elements, the approach is predicted to enhance productivity and increase the efficiency of the process instead of microbes alone. Simultaneously, having varied options might result in creating too many engineering choices. The study provides information necessary to design the most ergonomic approach based on the needs.
Photosynthesis occurring naturally in nature is an example of the storage of energy on a massive scale as it converts energy into biofuels in a closed carbon loop. It is noted to capture more than six times the solar energy in a year when compared to all civilization uses over the same period. However, photosynthesis is an inefficient process concerning the harvest of sunlight, absorption of less than one percent of the energy that influences the cells.
Engineered electroactive microbes replace biological light harvesting with photovoltaics. These microbes have the potential to absorb electricity into its metabolism and utilize the same to transform carbon dioxide into biofuels. The approach promises a lot of scope for concocting biofuels at higher efficiencies.
Several types of renewable electricity can be used to power the conversion in the electroactive microbes. The engineered microbes can create bioplastics that are biodegradable, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the air and sequestering it in the ground. The method can be used to reverse the process as well by converting a biofuel or bioplastic into electricity. These interactions are flexible, allowing the occurrence to take place at room temperature and pressure. The efficiency is increased in these conditions contributing to the quality of the product.
The researchers also shed light on the non-biological methods for using electricity during carbon fixation, which has matched and at some point supersedes the microbes' capacities. However, electrochemical technologies are not ideal for creating certain types of complex molecules needed for polymers and biofuels. Engineered electroactive microbes display design independence while converting simple molecules into much-complicated ones.
The efficiency of photosynthesis can be significantly exceeded with the combinations of engineered microbes and electrochemical systems. For reasons like these, the researchers point out those combinations of systems present the most plausible solution for the storage of energy.
The data concentrated will be utilized by the researchers to test out the permutation of electrochemical and biological components, recognizing the best combinations out of so many choices.