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Published on April 5th, 2009 | by Alex Felsinger

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Bacteria Turns Excess Clean Energy Into Methane for Storage



Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have discovered a solution to the problem of reliable storage for alternative energy: a bacteria that can convert electricity to methane when combined with CO2.

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Any surplus power from wind, solar, or tidal sources is fed into the bacteria and combined with CO2 from the atmosphere to create methane for storage. Methane is a clean-burning gas and 80% of energy fed into the process was retained at the end.

Scientists note that using a bacteria instead of a high-cost catalyst is a promising development that could lead to the process’s implementation in just a few years.

“There are no noble metals involved, so it should be very cheap,” said Tom Curtis at the Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability at Newcastle University. “You don’t get all the energy back, but that’s a problem with any form of energy storage.”

Other ideas for energy storage include batteries, splitting and recombining water molecules, and of course redesigning the energy grid to handle fluctuating energy outputs.

[Via New Scientist]

Photo Credit: Mountain/\Ash on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

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About the Author

is primarily concerned with animal welfare, wildlife conservation, and environmental justice. As a freelance writer in San Francisco, he leads a deliberately simplistic and thrifty lifestyle, yet still can’t help gawking at the newest green gadgets and zero-emission concept cars.



  • Sophie Coler

    I always learn so much from these posts, thank you!

  • Sophie Coler

    I always learn so much from these posts, thank you!

  • JM

    Technically, it’s not a bacteria. It’s an archaea, a name that comes from the Greek for “ancient things.” Archaea are one of the 3 domains in the biological classification system.

  • JM

    Technically, it’s not a bacteria. It’s an archaea, a name that comes from the Greek for “ancient things.” Archaea are one of the 3 domains in the biological classification system.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob

    How does this compare to Carbon Sciences? Another organization that I read about from this site.

    Will one invention eliminate the other?

    How many BTUs of energy would Methane store and compare it to a tank of oil or gas.

    I have so many questions.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob

    How does this compare to Carbon Sciences? Another organization that I read about from this site.

    Will one invention eliminate the other?

    How many BTUs of energy would Methane store and compare it to a tank of oil or gas.

    I have so many questions.

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