Anthropogenic greenhouse gasses account for much of the overall greenhouse gasses that are being concentrated in out atmosphere, and of those gasses methane is considered one of the worst. Dr. Gargi Kulkarni, a researcher at California Institute of Technology, has been studying methanogenesis (the processes by which methane gas is produced in the environment) in an effort to better understand how we can control and perhaps eliminate the buildup of methane in the atmosphere.
“Methane gas is many more times potent carbon-dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and is being implicated in global warming.” she said. “Roughly 70% of this is anthropogenic[generated by human means].”
Dr. Kulkarni studied the mechanism of methane production within the Archaea, and gathered considerable information on how the cycles work and what helps and hurts their growth. Methanogenic Archaea are the class of microorganisms that produce methane in anaerobic environments, through a process that usually involves the reduction of carbon-dioxide with hydrogen molecules. The process involves several different enzymes in the reduction reaction, some of which can be eliminated from the process without it shutting down.
Dr. Kulkarni found that the hydrogen molecules could be cycled through the reaction through the deletion of certain enzymes, while not adversely affecting the process. This allowed for effective energy conservation within the process, potentially making the process more easily controlled. By deleting those enzymes that don’t control the methanogenesis, Kulkarni found that hydrogen was cycled through the reactions and eventually began to accumulate. With an accumulation of hydrogen, methane production ceased.
This research may offer insight into further reduction of anthropogenic methane, thereby assisting in the reduction of greenhouse gasses.