United States Patent Application: 0110171711

In a few earlier reports, such as, most recently:

West Virginia Coal Association | US Gov Hires Penn State Bugs to Convert CO2 to Methane | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent Application 20090317882 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Process for Methane Production; December, 2009; Assignee: The Penn State Research Foundation; Biological processes for producing methane gas and capturing carbon from carbon dioxide are provided according to embodiments of the present invention which include providing an electromethanogenic reactor having an anode, a cathode and a plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode. Electrons and carbon dioxide are provided to the plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode. The methanogenic microorganisms reduce the carbon dioxide to produce methane gas, even in the absence of hydrogen and/or organic carbon sources";

we've documented that there are known strains of bacteria, and related microorganisms, which exist, and, which consume Carbon Dioxide in the course of their metabolism and excrete, as a result of that metabolism, Methane gas; or, other metabolic products such as sugars and cellulose.

We've tediously beaten the value of such CO2-derived Methane to death, by presenting now almost countless documents, such as that recorded in:

Standard Oil 1954 CO2 + CH4 + H2O = Syngas | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 2,676,156 - Preparation of Synthesis Gas; 1954; Standard Oil Development Company; Abstract: The present invention relates to the preparation of a gas comprising carbon monoxide and hydrogen. In accordance with the present invention, carbon dioxide, steam and a light hydrocarbon gas such as methane (are reacted) to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen in proportions suitable for employment in the hydrocarbon synthesis process. By manipulation of the quantities of CH4, H2O and CO2 to be reacted, desired ratios of H2 to CO in the product may be obtained";

which demonstrate that such Methane can then be reacted with even more Carbon Dioxide, as recovered from whatever handy source, and be made thereby to form a synthesis gas blend of Hydrogen and Carbon Monoxide, suitable for catalytic chemical condensation, as via, for just one example, the Fischer-Tropsch process, into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

Herein, we see that the basic thesis of the Pennsylvania State University's "US Patent Application 20090317882 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Process for Methane Production", as cited above, that Carbon Dioxide, through the metabolic intercession of specific microbes, can be efficiently converted into Methane, has been confirmed, albeit in a somewhat modified, more indirect, form, wherein other products of Carbon Dioxide photosynthetic metabolism are first produced, by an, unfortunately now deceased, distinguished scientist on the faculty of the University of California at Berkely.

Comment follows, and is inserted within, excerpts from the initial link in this dispatch to:

"US Patent Application 20110171711 - Methods and Compositions for Production of Methane Gas

Date: July, 2011

Inventor: Daniel E. Koshland, Jr.

(Daniel E. Koshland, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; "Daniel Edward Koshland, Jr. (30 March 1920, New York City – 23 July 2007, Walnut Creek, California) reorganized the study of biology at the University of California at Berkeley and was the editor of the leading US science journal, Science, from 1985 to 1995. He was a Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences. His early work was in enzyme knietics at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Long Island, and Rockefeller University, New York. As chairman of the biochemistry department at the University of California at Berkeley he reorganized the department, streamlining it along modern lines into three departments, Molecular and Cell Biology, Integrative Biology, and Plant and Microbial Biology".

So, we will assume, that, should a patent issue from "US Patent Application 20110171711", the rights to it will be assigned to the University of California at Berkeley, or it's intellectual property ownership office.)

Abstract: The present invention provides methods and compositions for sustained methane production from atmospheric CO2 and solar energy from the sun. In general the methods involve culturing cyanobacteria in a first culture vessel and collecting and diverting the photosynthesis products, including glucose or acetic acid, to a second culture vessel including methanogenic bacteria. The photosynthesis products are then used as nutrients by the methanogenic bacteria in the second culture vessel in the production of methane. The methane produced is subsequently collected and used as a clean energy source. The invention also features compositions, including genetically modified cyanobacteria and systems for use in the methods of the invention.

(Note, that, in the specification of "solar energy from the sun" to drive the process, Koshland also echoes the Penn State University CO2-to-hydrocarbon, but not biologically-based, technology further described in our report of:

Penn State Seeks CO2 Recycling Patent | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent Application 20100213046 - Nanotube ... Photocatalytic Conversion of Carbon Dioxide; 2010; Assignee: The Penn State Research Foundation; Abstract: Nitrogen-doped titania nanotubes exhibiting catalytic activity on exposure to any one or more of ultraviolet, visible, and/or infrared radiation, or combinations thereof are disclosed. The nanotube arrays may be co-doped with one or more nonmetals and may further include co-catalyst nanoparticles. Also, methods are disclosed for use of nitrogen-doped titania nanotubes in catalytic conversion of carbon dioxide alone or in admixture with hydrogen-containing gases such as water vapor and/or other reactants as may be present or desirable into products such as hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon-containing products, hydrogen and hydrogen-containing products, carbon monoxide and other carbon-containing products, or combinations thereof".)

Claims:  A method for production of methane, comprising culturing a photosynthetic organism in a first vessel in the presence of carbon dioxide (CO2) and visible light, wherein the culturing provides for photosynthetic fixation of CO2 to photosynthetic products, collecting and diverting the photosynthesis product to a second vessel comprising methanogenic bacteria, and culturing said methanogenic bacteria to produce methane. 

The method ... wherein said photosynthetic organism is a photosynthetic cyanobacteria. 

The method ... wherein said photosynthesis product is glucose or acetic acid. 

The method ... wherein the cyanobacteria is genetically modified in order to provide for transport of the photosynthetic products.

(So, some genetic engineering is required to make the process more efficient. Our presumption is, since the needed species of bacteria are well-known and have been studied for a long time, that the technology exists to perform the needed genetic modifications, else a distinguished scientist like Koshland wouldn't have included that stipulation as a supportive element of his invention.)

The method ... wherein visible light source is natural light. 

The method ... wherein a visible light source is artificial light. 

The method ...  wherein a CO2 source is atmospheric CO2.

(As we've documented, for one example in:

Efficient Capture of Atmospheric CO2 | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 7,993,432 - Air Collector ... for Capturing Ambient CO2; 2011; Inventors: Dennis Wright and Eddy Peters; Assignee: Kilimanjaro Energy, Inc.; Abstract: An apparatus for capture of CO2 from the atmosphere comprising an anion exchange material formed in a matrix exposed to a flow of the air. A process for removing CO2 from atmospheric air at a location remote from where the CO2 was generated";

the technologies to efficiently extract "atmospheric CO2" do exist.) 

The method ... wherein a CO2 source is an artificial source. 

A system for production of methane, comprising a first vessel for culturing a photosynthetic organism in the presence of carbon dioxide (CO2) and visible light, and a second enclosed vessel for culturing methanogenic bacteria, wherein said first vessel is in fluid communication with said second vessel. 

The system ... further comprising a first conduit connecting the first vessel and the second vessel. 

The system ... further comprising a gas storage container in gaseous communication with the second vessel. 

A genetically modified cyanobacteria expressing at least a first foreign gene, wherein the genetically modified cyanobacteria is capable of transporting products of photosynthesis across the cyanobacteria's membrane. 

(We are compelled to interrupt at this point to explain, and summarize, that: In the first vessel, specific strains of microorganisms are actively absorbing CO2, and other nutrients, and producing, among other things, "glucose or acetic acid". Those products are passed to a second vessel, where another group of different microorganisms, perhaps genetically modified to make excretion of Methane more efficient, convert the metabolic products of the first, CO2-consuming process into, among a few other things, Methane.)

Description and Summary: Present concerns regarding the long term availability of fossil fuels and the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) have given rise to a societal need for new forms of energy.

(One) alternative is methane (CH4), which is an ultimate product of anaerobic degradation of biological wastes and is a natural gas which can be transported easily in pipelines. Moreover, if made from CO2 use of CH4 as a fuel would not increase the net amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. 

The present invention provides methods and compositions for sustained methane production from atmospheric CO2 and solar energy from the sun. In general the methods involve culturing photosynthetic organism, such as cyanobacteria, in a first culture vessel and collecting and diverting the photosynthesis products, such as glucose or acetic acid, to a second culture vessel including methanogenic bacteria. The photosynthesis products are then used as nutrients by the methanogenic bacteria in the second culture vessel in the production of methane. The methane produced is subsequently collected and used as a clean energy source. The invention also features compositions, including genetically modified cyanobacteria and systems for use in the methods of the invention."

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And, that is about the sum of it, although the full disclosure does go on in commendable detail about the physical design of the system, and the types of critters that can be housed within the system to, first, being driven and powered by solar light energy, collect and convert Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere into products such as "glucose"; and, then, ferment that glucose into Methane.

In essence, it's a sort of photosynthesis, like that all of our green plants utilize, put into overdrive; with the addition of an improved fermentation vessel where the photosynthetic products are metabolized, or digested, into the desired Methane.

Finally, and again, once we have that Methane, made efficiently, though somewhat indirectly, from Carbon Dioxide, we can then react that CO2-derived Methane, as recently explained by other California scholars, and as confirmed by our United States government, in:

West Virginia Coal Association | California Awarded March, 2011, CO2-to-Methanol US Patent | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 7,906,559 - Conversion of CO2 to Methanol and/or Dimethyl Ether using Bi-Reforming of Methane; 2011; Inventors: George Olah and G.K. Surya Prakash; Assignee: University of Southern California; Abstract: The invention discloses a method of converting carbon dioxide to methanol and/or dimethyl ether using any methane source ... consisting of a combination of steam and dry reforming, in a specific ratio to produce a 2:1 molar ratio of hydrogen and carbon monoxide with subsequent conversion of the CO and H2 mixture exclusively to methanol and/or dimethyl ether";

with even more Carbon Dioxide, recovered from whatever source, and, through such Methane-CO2 reactions, generate a hydrocarbon synthesis gas blend of Hydrogen and Carbon Monoxide, a "syngas" suitable for catalytic chemical condensation into a variety of liquid fuels, such as the valuable alcohol, "methanol", and the substitute Diesel product, "dimethyl ether".


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