The bacteria can help protect the environment in very different ways. From the production of alternative energies that sometimes even allow us to get rid of our waste to, for example, cleaning contaminated environments as a result of environmental catastrophes.
In this post we will see different uses of bacteria that are as useful as they are friendly to the environment. Scientific findings are shocking on many occasions, but above all they put us on the trail of amazing discoveries that surely the future holds. In AgroCorrn, we explain why bacteria are good allies of ecology.
The discovery was made in a landfill made of PET, one of the most common plastics for the manufacture of bottles for food use, as well as for the textile industry.
Millions of tons are produced each year and their recycling represents a problem due to its difficulty. However, the problem could have its days numbered thanks to Ideonella sakaiensis , a bacterium that makes PET its main source of carbon.
From it, scientists can design enzymes that facilitate the recycling of other plastics. Its discoverers, Japanese scientists from the Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University, now face the task of making this powerful tool work for degrading our plastics.
The petroleum degradation is another utilities that provide us bacteria. This time, too, a discovery was started, specifically of the bacterium Oleispira antartica RB-8 , capable of obtaining carbon from hydrocarbons.
Its metabolism makes it a real treasure to clean polar areas and sea beds affected by oil spills. Although there are other bacteria that are also useful for this same purpose, its effectiveness in resisting high salinity and low temperature environments makes it a great discovery.
The Lysinibacillus sphaericus is also invaluable for the decontamination of water and soil contaminated. Its use has been reaping successes for more than five decades thanks to its ability to accumulate hydrocarbons and heavy metals.
In turn, both this and other strains previously proved effective in killing mosquitoes without the need for pesticides , a dangerous vector of diseases whose severity worsens with the advance of global warming.
Lighting and biofuels
If we want to light up the night in the most “natural” way, his thing is to turn to nature. Without going any further, to bioluminescent bacteria. The Glowee project is an example of how much can be made from this natural phenomenon, specifically using bacteria that break down a known luciferin.
Using them in the lighting of posters or shop windows they have succeeded in replacing electricity with bioluminescence. The process of generating it is due to the use of enzymes by bacteria to decompose said compound, releasing a blue-green glow. Its potential for night lighting in cities is enormous.
In another vein, bacteria are also key to the production of some types of biodiesel. The cases are very diverse, as well as the methods used. One of the most surprising, invented by the University of Michigan, in the United States, we met just a decade ago.
Thanks to an enzyme enzyme present in a microbe that lives in the stomach of cows, whose function is to help digest pastures, it is key in the production of biodiesel. As these researchers discovered, the enzyme can also be used to transform plant fibers into simple sugars, whose fermentation is essential to generate ethanol with which to feed vehicles.
In addition to the finding, the researchers have invented a method for plants to include this enzyme. The great achievement has been to ensure that the gene that makes the enzyme can be transplanted into the plant cell. This opens the door to the manufacture of biofuels from the entire plant, including what was traditionally discarded.
The result is the reproduction of the process that takes place in the stomach of the cows to obtain a new technique. In the same way that cows transform plant fibers or cellulose into energy through the intervention of bacteria, the same is achieved in order to facilitate the manufacture of biofuels.
Thanks to this new technique, the entire plant can be used and a higher yield can be obtained without causing the price to skyrocket. On the contrary, transforming cellulose into biodiesel implies the use of different enzymes, which are normally acquired at a cost that is not very cheap. Now, however, this cost is avoided and ethanol can be made much cheaper. Of course, for this it was necessary to do a conscientious laboratory work that was expensive. Ultimately, the success made it all worth it.
Other similar projects are based on no less surprising discoveries. Tulane University in New Orleans discovered a really curious method for recycling paper. Thanks to the action of a bacterium named TU-103 , the cellulose in the paper can produce butanol, a biofuel that burns cleanly, thereby reducing CO2 emissions.
The modification of bacteria, on the other hand, allows their use in biofuel production systems that seem like science fiction. Among others, they allow us to cherish the dream of converting solar energy into liquid fuel.
The scientific discovery of Daniel Nocera, a highly regarded American scientist, stands out from other similar attempts. His constant attempts to find viable fuels inspired by plant photosynthesis probably reaches its highest expression.
It is a sophisticated system that takes advantage of a genetically modified bacteria to convert solar energy into biofuel. Through solar energy, hydrogen is obtained from water in a first step. It is then when the modified bacterium of the Ralstonia eutropha species comes into action, effective in transforming CO2 into isopropanol, an alcohol that must then be turned into a liquid for use as fuel.
Its success would lead to a planetary energy revolution. For now, however, it is a scientific discovery. Its commercialization is still a long way off, but the Nocera laboratory does not stop taking small but decisive steps to perfect this new fuel.
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