Efficient CO2 storage method discovered in a bacterium

The climate crisis makes the search for ways to store CO2 ever more urgent. Researchers have now broken down an enzyme in a bacterium that makes it possible to bind CO2 efficiently.

"Nanowire" filaments of the enzyme HDCR

According to a media release from the Basel Biozentrum, the enzyme, called HDCR, forms formic acid from gaseous hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2). This enables efficient and long-term storage of CO2, which could be important in view of the ever worsening climate crisis.

The enzyme HDCR comes from the bacterium Thermoanaerobacter kivui, which was discovered in 1981 in Lake Kivu in Central Africa. The heat-loving bacterium lives far from oxygen, including in the deep sea.

Catalyst at high speed

The research teams from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel and the Universities of Frankfurt am Main and Marburg in Germany have succeeded in deciphering the special structure of the enzyme. It is composed of unusually long and intertwined so-called filaments. This filamentous structure apparently functions like an electron-conducting nanowire, which is responsible for the high-speed binding of the two gases.

In this enzyme, this chemical reaction is carried out more efficiently than in all known chemical catalysts, it continues. "The structures found in HDCR show us new ways to bind CO2 and use H2 as an energy source," said Ben Engel, the research group leader at the Basel Biozentrum.

The results also illustrate the importance of basic scientific research on various biological organisms, Engel added. After all, "nature is full of amazing surprises."

Written by: sda

Photos: Verena Resch,

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