Electricity from methane by reversing methanogenesis

Michael J. McAnulty, Venkata G. Poosarla, Kyoung Yeol Kim, Ricardo Jasso-Chávez, Bruce E. Logan, Thomas K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Given our vast methane reserves and the difficulty in transporting methane without substantial leaks, the conversion of methane directly into electricity would be beneficial. Microbial fuel cells harness electrical power from a wide variety of substrates through biological means; however, the greenhouse gas methane has not been used with much success previously as a substrate in microbial fuel cells to generate electrical current. Here we construct a synthetic consortium consisting of: (i) an engineered archaeal strain to produce methyl-coenzyme M reductase from unculturable anaerobic methanotrophs for capturing methane and secreting acetate; (ii) micro-organisms from methane-acclimated sludge (including Paracoccus denitrificans) to facilitate electron transfer by providing electron shuttles (confirmed by replacing the sludge with humic acids), and (iii) Geobacter sulfurreducens to produce electrons from acetate, to create a microbial fuel cell that converts methane directly into significant electrical current. Notably, this methane microbial fuel cell operates at high Coulombic efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15419
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - May 17 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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