Engineering appliction of methanotroph
Methane (CH4) is often beneficial, as it can be utilized as a source of energy; however, when CH4 is released to the atmosphere, it is a very potent greenhouse gas with ~22 times higher global warming potential. A huge portion of methane biologically generated in an anoxic environment is oxidized in situ, thanks to the group of microorganisms called methanotrophs, or methane oxidizers, inhabiting surrounding oxic environments. These microorganisms can consume methane for both assimilation and energy conservation, and thus have great potential in mitigation of methane emissions from hotspots such as rice paddies, thawing permafrosts, landfills, and shale gas drilling sites. Methanotrophs can also be utilized for bioremediation of soils and groundwater contaminated with organic contaminants, and recently, a certain subgroup of methanotrophs was found to be capable of demethylating methyl mercury.
The Environmental Microbiology Laboratory at KAIST is seeking various ways how these interesting groups of microorganisms can be harnessed for engineering applications.
Research Project #1
Understanding environmental controls of methanotrophic community formation
Research Project #2
Methanotrophic microbiome utilization for CH4 and contaminant degradation