A Korean research team has developed a biomaterial that can produce methanol from methane, which is one of the most abundant gas resources on the planet.
A research team led by Professor Lee Ji-won at Korea University announced on April 2 that it has succeeded in developing enzymatic nanoparticles using a bio-process that uses methane-oxidizing bacteria.
Methane gas is a main component of shale, landfill, and biogases and is a raw material used to produce methanol. Methane can be converted into methanol, which can be used in the production of various household goods and major industrial materials by replacing crude oil.
However, the chemical oxidation process of producing methane gas has many problems in terms of technical, economic and environmental aspects, including high energy consumption, environmental pollution, and a low reactive conversion rate. As an alternative to the chemical process of producing methanol, the research team created enzyme nanoparticles through a bioprocess that only uses the key active sites of methane monooxidase (MMO).
MMO, which is present in the form of membrane protein, is an enzyme with a high industrial value because it can selectively convert methane to methanol at a very mild condition (45 degrees Celsius). However, it is very difficult to cultivate high concentration of methanotrophic bacteria, and it is also difficult to mass-produce MMO.
The nanoparticles made by the research team use E. coli, which is easily grown at high concentrations in a short time, to mass produce MMO. In addition, when the enzyme nanoparticles are immobilized on the porous hydrogel, their activity is stably maintained and can be reused repeatedly for a long time.
Lee said, "It is meaningful that we have developed nanoparticles that can mass-produce methane monooxidase and a production system capable of reusing enzyme nanoparticles stably and repeatedly. It will be able to contribute to the development of various enzymes with industrial value and high-efficiency bio-processes."
The results of the study are published in international journal Nature Catalysis (April 2).