From: Penn State
Published May 17, 2017 11:39 AM

Microbial fuel cell converts methane to electricity

Transporting methane from gas wellheads to market provides multiple opportunities for this greenhouse gas to leak into the atmosphere. Now, an international team of researchers has taken the first step in converting methane directly to electricity using bacteria, in a way that could be done near the drilling sites.

"Currently, we have to ship methane via pipelines," said Thomas K. Wood, holder of the biotechnology endowed chair and professor of chemical engineering, Penn State. "When you ship methane, you release a greenhouse gas. We can't eliminate all the leakage, but we could cut it in half if we didn't ship it via pipe long distances."

The researchers' goal is to use microbial fuel cells to convert methane into electricity near the wellheads, eliminating long-distance transport. That goal is still far in the future, but they now have created a bacteria-powered fuel cell that can convert the methane into small amounts of electricity.

"People have tried for decades to directly convert methane," said Wood. "But they haven't been able to do it with microbial fuel cells. We've engineered a strain of bacteria that can."

Continue reading at Penn State

Image: Micrograph of a synthetic bacterium that manufactures the chemical needed to capture electrons. (Image Credit: Thomas K. Wood / Penn State)

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