Plant Enzyme To Power Exhaust-Powered Cars

SoybeanFrom Discovery News:

An enzyme found in the roots of soybeans could be the key to cars that run on air.

Vanadium nitrogenase, an enzyme that normally produces ammonia from nitrogen gas, can also convert carbon monoxide (CO), a common industrial byproduct, into propane, the blue-flamed gas found on stoves across America.

While scientists caution the research is still at an early stage, they say that this study could eventually lead to new, environmentally friendly ways to produce fuel — and eventually gasoline — from thin air.

“This organism is a very common soil bacteria that is very well understood and has been studied for a long time,” said Markus Ribbe, a scientist at the University of California, Irvine, and a co-author of the new paper that appears in the journal Science.

“But while we were studying it, we realized that the enzyme has some unusual behavior,” he added.

The organism that the researchers studied was Azotobacter vinelandii, an economically important bacteria. A. vinelandii is usually found in the soil around the roots of nitrogen-fixing plants like soybeans.

Farmers like plants that contain A. vinelandii because the bacteria use a suite of enzymes to turn unusable atmospheric nitrogen into vital ammonia and other chemicals. Other plants can then take up those chemicals and use them to grow…

[continues at Discovery News]

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