Volcanic bacteria can eat CO2. Lots of it, and fast.

The Guardian introduces us to a new group of cyanobacteria that live in volcanic hot springs in Italy and America’s Rocky Mountains and that feast on carbon dioxide — offering the potential to eat up greenhouse gases in the atmosphere:

The new microbe, a cyanobacterium, was discovered in September in volcanic seeps near the Italian island of Vulcano, where the water contains high levels of CO2. The researchers said the bug turned CO2 into biomass faster than any other known cyanobacteria.

In February the team also explored hot springs in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, US, where levels of CO2 are even higher. Those results are now being analysed. The researchers said all their data on microbes would be published and made available to other scientists as a database that pairs DNA sequences with banked samples of the bacteria.

Dr Braden Tierney, at Weill Cornell Medical College and Harvard Medical School, said: “Our lead collaborator at Harvard isolated this organism that grew astonishingly quickly, compared to other cyanobacteria.”

“The project takes advantage of 3.6bn years of microbial evolution,” he said. “The nice thing about microbes is that they are self-assembling machines. You don’t have that with a lot of the chemical approaches [to CO2 capture].”

You can read more about the research at The Two Frontiers Project and at Seed Labs, which funded the research.

[via Dr. Drainville]