Ghent scientist uses bacteria to remove methane from air


A bio-engineer at UGent has developed a way of removing methane more efficiently from the air and even using the method to treat water or improve soil quality

Useful resource

A bio-engineer from Ghent University has developed a technique to remove the greenhouse gas methane more efficiently from the air and potentially make it a usable resource. After carbon dioxide, methane is the most significant greenhouse gas caused by human activity.

There are various techniques to remove methane from the atmosphere, but they are not yet efficient and are thus expensive. Frederiek-Maarten Kerckhof has now discovered that the bacterial communities found around methane are of crucial importance.

“Some bacteria remove methane but also try to work with other bacteria that cannot remove methane,” he said. “You can make methane-removing bacteria collaborate with bacteria that have other assets, like the ability to remove polluting substances from ground water.”

This leads to a win-win situation: methane is removed more efficiently and the bacterial community can be used for water treatment or improving soil quality. Scientists can also combine bacteria so they develop certain resources, like vitamins or pigments, to be used by the pharmaceutical industry, for example.

“By making a useful product with it, you can earn back investment costs needed to remove methane,” said Kerckhof, who is now working on the practical implementation of the technique.

Photo: Ingimage