Bugs can help trap underground carbon dioxide

February 24th, 2012 - 6:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 24 (IANS) In both the novel and movies versions of “The War of the Worlds”, bugs save the earth, while aliens succumb to infections to which humans have developed immunity through evolution.

If a team of researchers at Lawrence Berkley National Lab’s Center for nanoscale control of geologic carbon dioxide (CO2) has its way, bugs could help prevent global destruction for real by trapping underground CO2, that threatens our climate.

Among the methods being considered for removing excess CO2 from power stations is transporting the gas into porous rock deep underground. There, it can mineralize with cations or positively charged atoms to form solid carbonate minerals and become permanently trapped.

This mineralization process, however, is extremely slow, sometimes taking hundreds to thousands of years. Bacteria, the researchers predicted, might help speed things up, according to a Lawrence Lab statement.

“Previous studies have shown that underground bacteria remain in the rock after CO2 injection. We know these microbes can impact how minerals form, leading us to wonder if they also affect the rate of mineralization,” says NCGC biochemist Jenny Cappuccio.

“And if bacteria could enhance the nucleation of carbonate minerals, then perhaps we could fine-tune that ability in the laboratory,” adds Cappuccio.

These findings will be presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society (BPS) in San Diego, California on from February 25-29.

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