10 Emerging Technologies in the Energy Industry


Bug Fart Power!

Is there anything bacteria can't do? It seems like every time we turn around, they're causing epidemics and doing good in our guts and solving quantum equations. Sure, maybe they don't do higher mathematics, but they do fart methane. And we like that. Really.

These little guys, who live at Stanford and Penn State with their scientist friends, are called methanogens. It only sounds like they should have a cameo on "Breaking Bad".They do not make drugs. In the wild, if you can imagine free-range methanogens, they would eat carbon dioxide from the air and electrons from hydrogen gas and excrete (the scientists' word; we know they mean fart) pure methane.

The scientists have figured out that if the methanogens are fed a stream of electrons from emissions-free power sources, like solar cells and wind farms, to go with their main dish of CO2, the methane farts that result can be turned into fuel for airplanes, ships and cars.