Carbon dioxide (CO2) spewed from power plants and automobiles is the single largest source of man-made greenhouse gas. Every year, we pump more than 30 billion metric tons (33 billion tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere where it speeds the damaging effects of global warming [source: Trafton]. While the energy sector experiments with trapping or "sequestering" CO2 emissions underground, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has successfully used genetically modified yeast to convert CO2 gas into solid, carbon-based building materials.
Like the Harvard termite team, the MIT researchers were also inspired by nature, this time the abalone. Like other crustaceans, abalone can convert ocean-borne CO2 and minerals into calcium carbonate to build their rock-hard shells. The researchers isolated the enzyme that abalone use to mineralize the CO2 and engineered a batch of yeast to produce it. A beaker full of genetically modified yeast can produce 2 pounds (1 kilogram) of solid carbonate from only 1 pound (0.5 kilograms) of C02 [source: Trafton]. Imagine how many carbon bricks they could make with 30 billion metric tons of CO2.
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