Methanotrophic Bacteria: Fuel Producers of the Future

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Methanotrophic bacteria has the incredible ability to remove methane from the environment and convert it into fuel. We now have a clearer picture as to how.

Schematic of the metabolic enzyme, particulate methane monooxygenase, which catalyzes the methane-to-methanol reaction

Schematic of the metabolic enzyme, particulate methane monooxygenase, which catalyzes the methane-to-methanol reaction

In a new study from Northwestern University has discovered the bacterial enzyme responsible for the methane-methanol conversion catalyzes reaction at a site that contains just one copper ion. Until now, how methanotrophic bacteria naturally perform such a complex reaction and the structure of the metal ions responsible for catalysis have been a mystery.
Methanotrophs do two amazing things: they remove a harmful greenhouse gas from the environment and they also generate a usable sustainable fuel. The current process used to generate a methane-to-methanol reaction requires tremendous pressure and extreme temperatures greater than 1,300 degrees Celsius. This is also very demanding in time, process, and cost. Methanotrophic bacteria can do this naturally and at room temperature.
This discover will lead to human-made catalysts that can convert methane to readily usable methanol with the same natural mechanism.

source:
Science: 10 May 2019: Vol. 364, Issue 6440, Particulate methane monooxygenase contains only mononuclear copper centers, Matthew O. Ross, Fraser MacMillan,  Jingzhou Wang, Alex Nisthal, Thomas J. Lawton, Barry D. Olafson, Stephen L. Mayo, Amy C. Rosenzweig, Brian M. Hoffman
https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6440/566/tab-pdf