Data shows that the amount of carbon dioxide in our air is increasing year by year, faster than plants can reprocess it into oxygen.

Efforts to rebalance Earth’s atmosphere by taking carbon out of the atmosphere has inspired everything from the construction of giant vacuums that suck carbon gas out of passing air to theories that carbon dioxide could be captured in giant bubbles and stored at the bottom of the sea.

A group of scientists has turned their focus on the issue from macro to micro.

They collected samples of bacteria from the waters seeping from under an Italian volcanic island and found a strain of cyanobacteria that not only lives by eating carbon dioxide but also gobbles it “astonishingly quickly”— faster than any other known bacteria, according to the scientists in a recent report.

They also discovered that this particular bug sinks in water, which also could help sequester the carbon dioxide it ingests.

However, these “carbon bugs” also could be harvested and their carbon dioxide recycled as industrial feedstocks. Carbon gas is used in making metals, chemicals, and even as an atmospheric additive in enclosed greenhouses to spur plant growth.

CyanoCapture, a British company that counts Royal Dutch Shell and Elon Musk among its investors, already is using cyanobacteria to produce biological oils.

TRENDPOST: While this is a valuable discovery as a way to take excess carbon from the air, it lacks a viable business model. As a result, it will not make a practical difference any time in the foreseeable future. 

This exemplifies the problem with any number of new technologies: they prove out, but then sit idle, sometimes permanently, because developing markets and business models rarely receive the same amount of dedicated discipline as making discoveries and inventions do.

Skip to content