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How methane-eating bacteria create 'green' fuel decoded

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Scientists have identified an that helps some remove from the and convert it into a usable fuel -- paving the way for a creating a novel, sustainable source of

Known for their ability to methanotrophic have long fascinated researchers.

A team from the in the US found that the responsible for the methane-methanol conversion catalyses this reaction at a site that contains just one copper ion.

The finding could lead to newly designed, human-made catalysts that can convert -- a highly -- to readily usable methanol with the same effortless mechanism.

"The identity and structure of the responsible for catalysis have remained elusive for decades," said Amy C Rosenzweig, from

"Our study provides a major leap forward in understanding how methane-to-methanol conversion," Rosenzweig said in a statement.

"By identifying the type of copper center involved, we have laid the foundation for determining how nature carries out one of its most challenging reactions," said Brian M Hoffman, from Northwestern.

The study, published in the journal Science, showed that by oxidising and converting it to methanol, methanotrophic bacteria (or "methanotrophs") can pack a one-two punch.

Not only are they removing a from the environment, they are also generating a readily usable, sustainable fuel for automobiles, and more.

Current industrial processes to catalyse a methane-to-methanol reaction require tremendous pressure and extreme temperatures, reaching higher than 1,300 degrees Celsius.

Methanotrophs, however, perform the reaction at room temperature and "for free."

"While copper sites are known to catalyse methane-to-methanol conversion in human-made materials, methane-to-methanol catalysis at a under ambient conditions is unprecedented," said Matthew O Ross, a graduate student at Northwestern.

"If we can develop a complete understanding of how they perform this conversion at such mild conditions, we can optimise our own catalysts," said Ross.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 14 2019. 11:46 IST