Ways microbes could help build a greener planet


Currently, the world is facing a number of problems, with the major ones being pollution, waste, and a decline in sources which could be used to generated electricity. While there is no dearth of research groups who are coming up with a wide range of solutions such as geoengineering to solve some of the problems, there are a few who believe that humble microorganisms can help solve all of these problems. Here are of the ways microbes can help build a greener planet.

  • Pollution eating bacteria

Bacteria are known around the world for its unique ability to clean up toxic waste. Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina, have found that Desulfitobacteria, which is already known for its ability to breakdown most environmental pollutants including circuit boards, can convert their unique food into electricity as well. As long as this bacterium is fed fuel, it could theoretically produce electricity throughout the day. Though, the energy generated by it will only be enough to run a small electronic device.

  • Bacteria that can eat plastic

Out of all environmental pollutants, plastic is often considered the worst, since it takes hundreds of thousands of years to degrade naturally. Microbiologists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts have now found bacteria that live in a nutrient-poor area of the North Atlantic Ocean, often called an “ocean desert”, are able to eat away plastic waste.

  • Producing fuel from carbon dioxide

To get rid of ambient carbon dioxide and generate electricity in the process, researchers at MIT have genetically modified humble soil bacteria called Ralstonia Eutropha, and given it the ability to produce gasoline-compatible fuel from carbon dioxide, or any other source of carbon including agricultural and human waste. Moreover, the fuel produced by the bacteria can be collected, without actually destroying it.

  • Cleaning up nuclear waste

To help save the lives of those tasked to clean up nuclear waste, researchers at the Michigan State University have uncovered the secrets of a microbe called Geobacter. The team genetically modified the bacteria, while still keeping its natural ability to live in areas contaminated by heavy metals. The team gifted the microbe’s appendages with an ability to clean up nuclear waste, while producing electricity.

  • Methane eating bacteria

Methane is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases, which is emitted from industries and naturally too. Scientists who are developing mechanisms to help regulate methane emissions, have sought help from some types of bacteria that make use of copper from the environment to metabolize methane, thereby getting rid of this dangerous greenhouse gas, while eliminating heavy metals too.

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