There are many countries and companies adopting renewable energy sources like wind and solar. But, they were still unable to find an effective way to store excess energy. We might have more than enough energy to feed the grid when the wind blows. But we were unable to store the surplus. Now, the researchers at Stanford University are working on a biology-based battery alternative. This idea is to use microbes to convert excess renewable energy into methane and it can be burned as needed. The microorganism Methanococcus maripaludis consumes hydrogen and carbon dioxide and exudes methane. They are using renewable energy-powered electrodes to split water and free its hydrogen atoms.
The hydrogen atoms are fed to the microbes, which then pull carbon dioxide from the air and release methane. The gas can be captured and stored because it doesn’t dissolve in water. The methane can be burned much like fossil fuel sources. It might seem backward to turn renewable energy into methane, which releases carbon dioxide when it burns. But, this methane is produced by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so the process is carbon-neutral. One significant advantage over battery storage systems is that the methane can be converted into electricity using existing infrastructure. The researchers are still working on this technology and they believe it will be cost effective. The U.S Department of Energy has already committed funding. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Southern California Gas are providing their help to develop more efficient designs.