Subject: Fighting climate change / Relieving our dependence on petroleum - Comments and suggestions are welcome! Don't hesitate and leave a comment on our comment section down below the article!
As climate change is becoming a more apparent issue virtually every day and more and more states seem to fall short of the targets set at the Paris accords, it sometimes seems that all we can do is hope that innovative science will find solutions and save the day.
Researchers at the University of South Florida have recently put forward a potential solution that might eventually alleviate a part of the problem regarding greenhouse gases. Their idea makes use of a new biologically-based technique utilizing the human enzyme 2-hydroxy acyl-coenzyme A lyase (also called HACL), to transform particular one-carbon (also called C1) materials into more complicated composites that might be usable in consumer/industrial products.
In a press release from the University of South Florida USF professor Ramon Gonzalez explains that the previously mentioned enzyme degrades chain fatty acids in humans. Where it all comes down to is that it breaks down long carbon chains into smaller parts. The researchers needed it to do the opposite. So they manipulated the process to work the other way around.
Consequently, the researchers added the engineered enzyme to Escherichia coli (better known as E. coli) microorganisms. These modified microorganisms turned out to be very efficient in transforming greenhouse gases, like formaldehyde and carbon dioxide, into chemical compounds that can be used in consumer products.
And it may not stop here. The scientists think their discovery might also be useful in transforming other types of substances as well. For example, it might help convert superfluous gas that is released when cured oil is pumped out of the ground into something useful. Currently, this gas is mostly unused and burned off via flaring. A wasteful practice that is adding to the global warming problem as unburned methane is released into the atmosphere during this process.
Among the materials that can be made from this gas by way of microbial transformation are ethylene glycol and glycolic acid. These molecules can be used in the production of plastics and cosmetics. Meaning that oil producers can not only reduce their negative impact on the environment but also create valuable materials that can be sold, making it a potentially economically viable solution that is sustainable with little to no subsidies.
On the whole, we shouldn't just rely on potential scientific breakthroughs in our fight against climate change. However, if this discovery turns out to be an applicable solution for oil producers science just gave us an incredible push forward.
Sources and further reading: Paper: 2-Hydroxyacyl-CoA lyase catalyzes acyloin condensation for one-carbon bioconversion / University of South Florida press release
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