Making Methanol: How Bacteria Do It
How can we exploit the fuel potential of extensive methane reserves?
Converting methane to methanol would make natural gas a desirable energy alternative. Certain bacteria can already do this; they
live on methane by turning it into methanol.
Studies at the APS synchrotron characterized the first enzyme (pMMO) in the pathway that bacteria use to convert methane to methanol at room temperature.
Synthetic production of methanol from methane has required high temperatures for catalysisâ€”temperatures at which methanol not stable.
The data provides a clear picture of enzyme's structure and is an important breakthrough in understanding how to improve the synthesis of methanol.
X-ray crystallographic structure of pMMO, showing three subunits and metal centers (cyan: copper; magenta: zinc). A semi-transparent molecular surface is superimposed.
Methanobacterium, a methane producing bacteria
Work performed at the Argonne National Laboratory.
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