Research and development for sustainable carbon and energy circulation systems using electromicrobiomes

To date, the carbon and energy circulation balance on Earth is in a transitional phase that humanity has not experienced thus far. To support the economic energy demand while suppressing CO2 atmospheric emissions, the end product of life, and economic activity, it is necessary to develop sustainable carbon and energy circulation systems that harmonize with and reduce the negative impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. During recent years, it has been demonstrated that microbial activity in the deep biosphere, including beneath the ocean floor, plays significant ecological roles in the advent of the Earth’s elemental cycles. In this research, we are focusing on “electromicrobiomes” that can directly receive electrons from the mineral surface for CO2 fixation/reduction in the deep biosphere, and aim for the development of bio-renewable and thus sustainable CO2 transformation systems. Combining bioelectrochemical potential for microbial CO2 transformation and reductive power in the Earth’s deep subsurface and extremes, a “geobio-reactor system” that could continuously convert CO2 to natural bio-gas (methane), alcohols, and other hydrocarbon resources at a high efficiency and low cost could be possible. If successfully developed, it will lead to a green innovation that contributes to simultaneously resolving both CO2 and energy issues.

Experimenting with “microorganisms eat electricity and CO2 to make methane!”

Geobiotechnology Group, Research and Development Center for Submarine Resources, JAMSTEC