Science Questions

Could we engineer a microbe to absorb carbon-dioxide?

Sun, 9th Mar 2008

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Question

Kevin asked:

In theory, might it be possible to engineer an airborne microbe or virus which could be released into the atmosphere where greenhouse gases are highly concentrated? These microbes would be designed to feed off the gas, but expel harmless gas as a by-product.

 

Answer

Dave:  I don't know about an airborne version, but we do already have microbes which do this - algae and plants.  In the presence of sunlight, they feed on CO2 and give out oxygen.  At the moment, they're not consuming the CO2 as quickly as we add it to the environment.

Chris:  Those algae are largely in the sea, and the sea accounts for over a third of the absorbtion of the CO2 that we put into the atmosphere.

Dave:  But even if more algae grows, something will come along and eat the algae, and then metabolise the sugars and carbohydrates and produce even more CO2.

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