Microbial Electrosynthesis (ME) creates a new way to make valuable chemicals and more affordable “green” fuel from solar power, bacteria and carbon dioxide. Microbiologists at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst are now going to see whether the technology can be used in a large scale commercial basis.
Dr. Derek Lovely heads up the research project.
“This could be the most exciting and significant development in alternative fuels in years,” Lovley says. His microbial electrosynthesis (ME) process is carbon neutral and uses solar energy more efficiently than plants. In fact, it provides a solution to one of the major problems of using solar panels to produce electricity: Storage. This technique immediately turns solar power directly into chemicals, which are then readily stored with existing infrastructure and distributed on demand.
In addition to the work being conducted at the University of Massachusetts, there are a host of research projects looking at better ways to create electrofuels, better batteries and carbon capture. The Department of Energy recently awarded $106 million dollars to over 37 different research projects – Dr. Lovely’s project received $1,000,000.
A post on Tech The Future explains the technology this way:
Known as microbial electrosynthesis (ME), the technology is based on the discovery that some specialized microorganisms can feed on electrons delivered with electrodes. These bacteria live on the electrodes and use electrons released from them as their food source. Basically, ME is a new form of photosynthesis, in which carbon dioxide and water are combined to produce organic compounds and oxygen is released as a byproduct.