Bacteria in the lab of Prof. Ron Milo of the Weizmann Institute of Science have not just sworn off sugar – they have stopped eating all of their normal solid food, existing instead on carbon dioxide (CO2) from their environment. That is, they were able to build all of their biomass from air. This feat, which involved nearly a decade of rational design, genetic engineering and a sped-up version of evolution in the lab, was reported this week in Cell. The findings point to means of developing, in the future, carbon-neutral fuels.
The study began by identifying crucial genes for the process of carbon fixation – the way plants take carbon from CO2 for the purpose of turning it into such biological molecules as protein, DNA, etc. The research team added and rewired the needed genes. They found that many of the “parts” for the machinery that were already present in the bacterial genome could be used as is. They also inserted a gene that allowed the bacteria to get energy from a readily available substance called formate that can be produced directly from electricity and air and which is apt to “give up” electrons to the bacteria.
Just giving the bacteria the “means of production” was not enough, it turned out, for them to make the switch. There was still a need for another trick to get the bacteria to use this machinery properly, and this involved a delicate balancing act. Together with Roee Ben-Nissan, Yinon Bar-On and other members of Milo’s team in the Institute’s Plant and Environmental Sciences Department, Gleizer used lab evolution, as the technique is known; in essence, the bacteria were gradually weaned off the sugar they were used to eating. At each stage, cultured bacteria were given just enough sugar to keep them from complete starvation, as well as plenty of CO2 and formate. As some “learned” to develop a taste for CO2 (giving them an evolutionary edge over those that stuck to sugar), their descendants were given less and less sugar until after about a year of adapting to the new diet some of them eventually made the complete switch, living and multiplying in an environment that served up pure CO2.
The bacteria’s new “health kick” could ultimately be healthy for the planet
To check whether the bacteria were not somehow “snacking” on other nutrients, some of the evolved E. coli were fed CO2 containing a heavy isotope – C13. Then the bacterial body parts were weighed, and the weight they had gained checked against the mass that would be added from eating the heavier version of carbon. The analysis showed the carbon atoms in the body of the bacteria were all extracted directly from CO2 alone.
The research team then set out to characterize the newly-evolved bacteria. What changes were essential to adapting to this new diet? While some of the genetic changes they identified may have been tied to surviving hunger, others appeared to regulate the synchronization of the steps of making building blocks through accumulation from CO2. “The cell needs to balance between toxic congestion and bankruptcy,” says Bar-On. Yet other changes the team noted had to do with transcription – regulating how existing genes are turned on and off. “Further research will hopefully uncover exactly how these genes have adjusted their activities,” says Ben-Nissan.
The researchers believe that the bacteria’s new “health kick” could ultimately be healthy for the planet. Milo points out that today, biotech companies use cell cultures to produce commodity chemicals. Such cells – yeast or bacteria – could be induced to live on a diet of CO2 and renewable electricity, and thus be weaned from the large amounts of corn syrup they live on today. Bacteria could be further adapted so that rather than taking their energy from a substance such as formate, they might be able to get it straight up — say electrons from a solar collector – and then store that energy for later use as fuel in the form of carbon fixed in their cells. Such fuel would be carbon-neutral if the source of its carbon was atmospheric CO2.
“Our lab was the first to pursue the idea of changing the diet of a normal heterotroph (one that eats organic substances) to convert it to autotrophism (‘living on air’),” says Milo. “It sounded impossible at first, but it has taught us numerous lessons along the way, and in the end we showed it indeed can be done. Our findings are a significant milestone toward our goal of efficient, green scientific applications.”
The Latest Google Headlines on:
The Latest Bing News on:
- Research pushes auto industry closer to clean cars powered by direct ethanol fuel cellson November 29, 2021 at 9:30 am
Alternative-energy research at Oregon State University is charting a path toward the mass adoption of clean cars powered by direct-ethanol fuel cells.
- Svitzer Introduces Carbon Neutral Towing in UKon November 29, 2021 at 8:38 am
Replacing marine fuel oil with the carbon neutral biofuel enables Svitzer to offer a new towage solution – Ecotow – to its customers, unlocking about 90% CO2 reduction in Scope 3 emissions from their ...
- Hydrogenious Is Using Conventional Fuel Infrastructure To Scale Green Hydrogen Adoptionon November 29, 2021 at 4:30 am
Using LOHC technology to enable the transportation and storage of hydrogen produced from the cheapest renewable energy source into Europe ...
- NYK Introduces Its Carbon Neutral Initiatives at International Symposium on Clean Fuel Ammoniaon November 25, 2021 at 12:00 pm
NYK participated in an international symposium on clean fuel ammonia held on November 24 at Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan). This event was organized by the Clean ...
- Daily Update: All About Carbon-Neutral Crudeon November 24, 2021 at 11:24 am
Major energy companies are pitching carbon-neutral crude as their solution to the climate crisis, despite advocates’ concerns that bundling offsets with fossil fuels is more marketing ploy than ...
- MotoGP bikes to run on carbon-neutral green fuel from 2027on November 24, 2021 at 6:35 am
MotoGP bikes will run entirely on green, sustainable fuel from 2027 after manufacturers and fuel companies signed up to a new environmental strategy that will eliminate fossil fuels from top-level ...
- Using microbes to make carbon neutral fuelon November 22, 2021 at 7:17 pm
Researchers have trained microbes to make a readily usable biofuel. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered a new way to train microbes to make a readily usable biofuel. A ...
- The Race Is On For Low Carbon Jet Fuelon November 18, 2021 at 8:00 am
The race to produce a low carbon jet fuel has garnered plenty of attention as the world attempts to reduce emissions, with British Airways debuting its carbon-neutral flight at COP26 ...
- Neutral Fuels and GAC Bunker Fuels partner to reduce maritime carbon emissionson November 17, 2021 at 10:19 pm
GAC Bunker Fuels Limited (‘GAC Bunker Fuels’) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Neutral Fuels to market its marine gasoil biodiesel blend specifically developed for shipping clients in the ...
- LNG industry launches 'carbon neutral’ frameworkon November 17, 2021 at 12:49 pm
An international liquefied natural gas (LNG) body on Wednesday launched a framework for rules to declare cargoes carbon neutral as it seeks to make the practice of offsetting emissions a last resort.
The Latest Google Headlines on:
Green scientific applications
The Latest Bing News on:
Green scientific applications
- GoldCann International Inc. Welcomes Jeannette VanderMarel as Director and Advisoron November 29, 2021 at 9:05 am
Goldcann International Inc. ("Goldcann" or the "Company"), a Canadian wellness company that intends to produce cannabis products in Mexico for the Mexican market, is proud to welcome Jeannette ...
- Full Text: Xi's keynote speech at 8th FOCAC ministerial conference Full Text: Xi's keynote speech at 8th FOCAC ministerial conferenceon November 29, 2021 at 8:52 am
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday said China and Africa should fight COVID-19 with solidarity, deepen practical cooperation, promote green development, and uphold equity and justice.
- Forum magazine: ESG compliance — Legal risks grow as regulators focus on explosion in sustainable investingon November 29, 2021 at 6:14 am
Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues have become a strategic priority for many corporate executives and boards around the globe.
- Green Fast Keto Reviews – Does It Really Work or Scam?on November 29, 2021 at 6:01 am
More and more people are signing up for vaccinations as the COVID-19 pandemic nears its end, which means that we’re in for an amazing summer. Men and women will soon be flocking to the beaches and ...
- BioFit Engineered Products Launches Fourth Generation Online Chair Builderon November 28, 2021 at 11:00 pm
BioFit Engineered Products, a global leader in the design and fabrication of technical ergonomic seating and commercial furnishing solutions, recently launched an ...
- Sizing up the challenges in extracting lithium from geothermal brineon November 28, 2021 at 9:52 pm
For geothermal fields around the world, produced geothermal brine has been simply injected back underground, but now it’s become clear that the brines produced at the Salton Sea geothermal field ...
- WWD - Inside the 'Green Science' of Beautyon November 24, 2021 at 2:58 am
As the thrum for sustainability in beauty becomes ever louder, green science is ushering in a new age of innovation. It may have less fanfare than the "clean beauty" movement, but "green science" is ...
- New species of green microalga identified in São Pauloon November 23, 2021 at 9:49 am
The discovery resulted in phylogenetic reclassification of microalgae in the genus Nephrocytium. An article on the research is in Taxon.
- Biosafety regulation to boost Nigerians green economy ― DG NBMAon November 22, 2021 at 11:20 am
Strong regulatory policy in the Biosafety sector would boost Nigeria's green economy, Director General, National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr Rufus ...
- Worldwide Laser Diode Industry to 2026 - Development of Green Laser Diodes for Projection Applications Presents Opportunities - ResearchAndMarkets.comon November 19, 2021 at 3:22 am
The "Laser Diode Market Research Report by Wavelength, Application, and Region - Global Forecast to 2026 - Cumulative Impact of COVID-19" report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com's offering.