Using Bacteria to Convert Clean Energy to Methane for Storage
Photo via functoruser via Flickr CC
One of the biggest issues surrounding renewable energy research besides efficiency is storage. However, microorganisms that can eat electricity and produce methane could become a significant, and supposedly clean, storage solution.
The new method relies on a microorganism studied by Bruce Logan's team at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. When living on the cathode of an electrolytic cell, the organism can take in electrons and use their energy to convert carbon dioxide into methane.
Of the energy put into the system as electricity, 80% was eventually recovered when the methane was burned - a fairly high efficiency. "You don't get all the energy back, but that's a problem with any form of energy storage," says [Tom] Curtis.
Scientists feel this could be a great solution for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing excess energy generated from renewables like wind and solar. They also think is only a few years away from being scaled into commercial production. That sounds a little optimistic, but well worth following closely as it is developed.