Researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered a way to turn the carbon dioxide found in our atmosphere into industrial products – like fuel and chemicals. By creating a microorganism that uses carbon dioxide like plants do – turning water and CO2 into sugars that are used for energy – researchers say that those sugars can be fermented and turned into ethanol.
“What this discovery means is that we can remove plants as the middleman,” said Michael Adams, co-author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, and a professor at the University of Georgia. “We can take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and turn it into useful products without having to go through the inefficient process of growing plants and extracting sugars from biomass.”
Using this microorganism to produce fuel from CO2 doesn’t exactly clean up the air. Rather, it’s essentially carbon neutral because it doesn’t add CO2 to the air, just the CO2 that was used to make the fuel.
Right now the process is in its earlier stages meaning it’s not a fuel source you’ll see in mass quantities anytime soon. But that’s what the researchers are working on next.
“This is an important first step that has great promise as an efficient and cost-effective method of producing fuels,” Adams said. “In the future we will refine the process and begin testing it on larger scales.”