A Group of Bacteria That Can Transform Global Warming

Researchers from the University of Washington, Northwestern University, and the University of Utah have initiated a method of removing methane from carbon dioxide and biomass. Lead researcher Mary E. Lidstrom states that using a group of bacteria known as methanotrophs will slow the rate of global heating.


Methane is an important source of hydrogen that is lighter than air, is slightly soluble in water, and burns readily in air as it forms carbon dioxide and water vapor.  This source is composed of the anaerobic bacterial decomposition of vegetable matter underwater. Methane also has a significant role as a greenhouse gas. It is produced and then released into the atmosphere. An increased methane concentration in the atmosphere has contributed to the greenhouse effect. 

As a result, greenhouse gases absorb net heat energy and reradiate it back to the planet’s surface. The emitted organic chemicals from petroleum systems, industry, agriculture, land use, and waste management activities lead to potentially trapping heat and producing substantial changes in the climate.

The Powerful Group of Methanotrophs

According to a group of researchers from the University of Washington, methanotrophs consume methane, which will remove methane from the air and convert part of it to cells as a source of sustainable protein. Firstly, a strain of bacteria within the methanotrophs named methykotuvimicrobium buryatense 5GB1C can remove methane even when it’s present in lower amounts. 

Essentially, this group of bacteria thrives in landfills, rice fields, and oil wells with higher methane levels. Professor of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, comments that bacteria that rapidly eat methane at the higher concentrations found in cattle herds could majorly impact eliminating methane emissions. The bacterial strain methykotuvimicrobium buryatense 5GB1C potential to consume methane and is over 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a twenty-year scale. 

Solutions for the Growth of Microorganisms

Researchers have presented several solutions for the growth of microorganisms. The creation of biofilters could contain nutrients necessary for the growth of microorganisms. Another idea would be to make genetic changes to the bacterial strain by inducing gene mutations and selecting specific strains. If these solutions advance, nations across the planet can prevent 240 million tons of methane from major emission sites from entering the atmosphere for decades to come.

However, methanotrophs are limited. The group of bacteria needs oxygen, so they can use oxygen to oxidize methane. They linger in a layer above the methanogens, where they can access oxygen and methane. Over time, methane has substantially increased, and the more the atmosphere warms, the more natural emissions the planet has. So, researchers are analyzing methanotrophs as they linger in this layer. The more food they have, the more they’ll grow efficiently. Nonetheless, scientists are observing the multiscale layers through bioengineering. 

Bioengineering’s objective is to characterize each stage of the process and increase mass transfer, remove the oxidation limitations, and add more reductants to increase the efficiency of consuming methane. The National Academies will examine the atmospheric methane removal research composed of a committee with negative emissions technologies. 

Additional Support

The Carbon Technology Research Foundation is cooperating with University of Utah chemist Jessica Swanson on funding research to change the global climate. The chemist transformed her lab to develop a process that would harness methanotrophs. Swanson aspires to enable methanotrophs and effectively eliminate methane from the air at low concentrations. Swanson’s team has guaranteed three years of funding to support the research. 

With the support of the Carbon Technology Research Foundation, experts from the University of Washington and Northwestern University will provide Swanson’s team funding for the developing technologies. Otherwise, the group of bacteria can deploy at highly concentrated methane locations such as coal mines, oil fields, and landfills.


Without a doubt, a group of eating bacteria methanotrophs brings light to the end of the tunnel. With the expectation of potential solutions to solve our global climate crisis, we hope that researchers like Dr. Jessica Swanson and her team from the University of Utah will continue to be funded and supported. To listen to a complete interview with Dr. Jessica Swanson, click on this link to understand the details and expansion of the Swanson Group research.