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As reported in the Financial Express, a team of scientists from the University of Georgia and North Carolina State University has genetically altered bacteria—Pyrococcus furiosus—that grows on sugars at very high temperatures so that it can withstand lower temperatures. This genetically-modified bacteria has enough energy at lower temperatures to convert atmospheric CO2 into useful products, but not enough energy to grow.

Global warming and the alarming increase of green house gases have got the scientific world frantically searching for ways to reduce emissions, especially those of carbon dioxide. But the fact is that nothing deals with CO2 better than nature—photosynthesis in plants and bacteria converts CO2 into harmless oxygen and water vapour. Scientists haven’t been able to either artificially replicate or better this system, with most methods either proving too costly or releasing harmful byproducts.

While this in itself is a remarkable achievement—factories can be fitted with tanks containing the bacteria—the really interesting thing about the modification is the byproduct created by the bacteria. The byproduct is a 3-hydroxypropionic acid used in the production of a variety of plastic products.

The scientists behind the modification say that once the technique is perfected, we will no longer have to rely on the inefficient process of growing plants so as to extract sugars from their biomass; we can get our fuels and chemicals directly from the CO2 in the air.

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