Generating electricity from Methane

Generating power while purifying the environment of greenhouse gases should be achievable using bacteria.


Methane is the most important hydrocarbon in the atmosphere. It is a potent greenhouse gas.

Scientists from Radboud University demonstrated that it could generate power from methane-consuming bacteria. The bacteria called Candidatus Methanoperedens use Methane to grow. These bacteria usually form in freshwaters such as ditches and lakes.

Scientists initially were keen to know about the conversion processes occurring in the microorganism. They were also curious to know whether this process could be used to generate power.

Microbiologist and author Cornelia Welte said, “This could be very useful for the energy sector. In the current biogas installations, microorganisms produce methane and subsequently burn, which drives a turbine, thus generating power. Less than half of the biogas is converted into power, which is the maximum achievable capacity. We want to evaluate whether we can do better using microorganisms.”

Previously, microbiologists from Nijmegen found that it is possible to generate power using anammox bacteria that use ammonium during the process instead of methane.

Microbiologist Heleen Ouboter said, “The process in these bacteria is the same. We create a kind of battery with two terminals, where one of these is a biological terminal, and the other one is a chemical terminal. We grow the bacteria on one of the electrodes, to which the bacteria donate electrons resulting from the conversion of methane.”

Welte said“We managed to convert 31 percent of the methane into electricity through this approach, but they aim at higher efficiencies. We will continue focusing on improving the system.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Heleen T. Ouboter et al. Methane-Dependent Extracellular Electron Transfer at the Bioanode by the Anaerobic Archaeal Methanotroph “Candidatus Methanoperedens”.” DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.820989
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