Now, a research team at Northwestern University is investigating how the tiny organisms can help rationalise chemical processes in an environmentally-friendly way.
The team reprogrammed an anaerobic bacteria so that it could convert CO2 into two widely-used chemicals.
Acetone is mainly used in the manufacture of plexiglass or solvents; alcohol (isopropanol) for disinfection and germ removal.
Normally both compounds are extracted using fossil fuels. According to the team’s study, the new fermentation process could reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the industry by 160%.