United States Patent Application: 0090317882

First, we remind you of an earlier dispatch, now accessible on the West Virginia Coal Association's web site via the link:

West Virginia Coal Association | Penn State CO2 to CH4 | Research & Development; concerning: "Direct Biological Conversion of Electrical Current into Methane by Electromethanogenesis; Shaoan Cheng, Defeng Xing, Douglas F. Call and Bruce E. Logan; The Pennsylvania State University; 2009; Here we demonstrate that methane can directly be produced ... by a process called electromethanogenesis. At a set potential of less than −0.7 V (vs Ag/AgCl), carbon dioxide was reduced to methane using a two-chamber electrochemical reactor containing an abiotic anode, a biocathode, and no precious metal catalysts";

wherein Penn State University scientists demonstrated that, by combining certain aspects of fuel cell technology with microbiology, "hybrid" electro- and bio-chemical reactors could be made, which, using very low voltage and amperage, i.e., consuming very little electricity, could convert Carbon Dioxide into Methane.

The needed voltages are so low, in fact, that there is little doubt such a Carbon Dioxide recycling process could be driven by photovoltaic energy, even in areas like the often-cloudy environs of US Coal Country.

In any case, that innovative Penn State CO2-reprocessing technology has now been reduced to practice; and, has been fully and formally described.

As seen in excerpts, with comment and additional links inserted and appended, from the initial link in this dispatch to:

"US Patent Application 20090317882 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Process for Methane Production

Date: December, 2009

Inventors: Shaoan Cheng and Bruce Logan, PA

Assignee: The Penn State Research Foundation

Abstract: Increasing competition for fossil fuels, and the need to avoid release carbon dioxide from combustion of these fuels requires development of new and sustainable approaches for energy production and carbon capture. 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.

(Note that no free Hydrogen is required to convert the Carbon Dioxide into Methane. However, as we will see in future reports, Penn State does have that base covered, using similar technology, should we want, as well, any extra Hydrogen for use in converting our abundant Coal into hydrocarbons.)

Government Interests: This invention was made with government support under Contract Nos. BES-0401885 and CBET-0730359 awarded by the National Science Foundation. The government has certain rights in the invention.

(Note that our US Government knows full-well that CO2 can be efficiently transformed into Methane. They were convinced enough of the concept's viability to help pay for its reduction herein to practice.)

Claims: A biological process for producing methane gas comprising: providing an electromethanogenic reactor having an anode, a cathode, and a plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode; providing electrons to the plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode; and providing carbon dioxide to the plurality of methanogenic microorganisms, whereby the methanogenic microorganisms reduce the carbon dioxide to produce methane gas. 

The process ... wherein a power source is in electrical communication with the reactor to enhance a potential between the anode and the cathode (and) wherein the power source is selected from the group consisting of: wind-generated power, solar power, a microbial fuel cell, a DC power source, an electrochemical cell, and a combination of two or more thereof. 

The process ... further comprising increasing methane gas production rate by adding an additional voltage to the cathode. 

The process ... wherein no organic carbon source is added to the cathode chamber. 

The process ... wherein no hydrogen is added to the cathode chamber. 

The process ... wherein substantially no organic carbon source is available to the plurality of methanogenic microorganisms ... .

The process ... wherein metal catalysts are substantially excluded from the cathode.

(The above several claims emphasize the facts, that, no expensive catalysts are needed; and, we don't have to supply the reactor with any additional Hydrogen or any additional Carbon. Those elements, required for the synthesis of the Methane, are extracted entirely from Water and Carbon Dioxide.)

A biological process for producing methane gas, comprising: providing an electromethanogenic reactor containing exoelectrogenic microorganisms and methanogenic microorganisms; providing an organic material oxidizable by an oxidizing activity of the exoelectrogenic bacteria such that electrons are produced and transferred to the anode and to the methanogenic microorganisms; and providing carbon dioxide to the methanogenic microorganisms, whereby the methanogenic microorganisms reduce the carbon dioxide to produce methane gas.

A biological process for producing methane gas, comprising: inserting an anode and a cathode in a methanogenic reactor comprising methanogenic microorganisms; and providing electrons to the methanogenic microorganisms, increasing the efficiency of the methanogenic reactor to produce methane gas. 

The process ... wherein providing electrons comprises applying a voltage to the cathode. 

The process ... wherein the voltage is generated by a power source selected from the group consisting of: wind-generated power, solar power, a microbial fuel cell, a DC power source, an electrochemical cell, and a combination of two or more thereof.

(Note that the ability of this CO2-recycling process to be driven solely by low-voltage and Carbon-free, essentially non-commercial, amounts of electricity is emphasized throughout the Disclosure.)

Field: The invention relates generally to methods and systems for fuel production, such as methane production. The invention relates generally to methods and systems for carbon capture.

Summary: Biological processes for producing methane gas 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.

The methanogenic microorganisms reduce carbon dioxide using electrons introduced into the system and no organic carbon source or hydrogen is required for this methane production.

Electromethanogenesis processes of the present invention are provided for direct production of methane using a biocathode containing methanogenic microorganisms, both in electrochemical systems using an abiotic anode and in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) using a biotic anode. Electromethanogenesis can be used to convert electrical current produced from any energy source, including renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, or biomass, into a biofuel (methane) as well as serving as a method for the capture of carbon dioxide. 

In specific embodiments, the invention relates to methods for methane production using methanogenic microorganisms to capture carbon and form methane gas from ... CO2."

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Penn State does go on at considerable length describing the design and workings of the apparatus.

They do, quite clearly, know how to make one of these things.

Further, they include a catalogue of specific, known and named, microorganisms that are capable, in the context of their invention, of assimilating electrical potential and using that electricity to convert Water and Carbon Dioxide into Methane.

None of it is speculative or left to doubt.

Further, although we won't link to any of our prior reports documenting the fact, all of what they describe herein has been demonstrated, to a lesser degree of refinement and practicality, as well, by others; and, this entire technology could be viewed as a biologically-mediated version of the 1912 Nobel-winning Sabatier process, wherein Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen are catalytically reacted to form Methane and Water.

But, we must note, that, once we have the Methane, as made so efficiently herein by Penn State's bugs from Carbon Dioxide, as Penn State also tells us, for just one example, in:

West Virginia Coal Association | More Penn State CO2 Recycling with Methane | Research & Development; concerning: "Catalytic Tri-reforming of Methane Using Flue Gas from Fossil Fuel-based Power Plants; The Pennsylvania State University: (A) new process for the production of synthesis gas (CO + H2) using CO2 in flue gas from fossil fuel-based electric power plants . Tri-reforming is a new process designed for the direct production of synthesis gas with desirable H2/CO ratios by reforming methane ... using flue gas from fossil fuel-based electric power plants without pre-separation of CO2";

that CO2-based Methane can then be reacted with even more Carbon Dioxide, even as it exists mixed with other gases "in flue gas from fossil fuel-based electric power plants"; with both being transformed through such reactions into a blend of Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen "synthesis gas", suitable for catalytic chemical condensation, as via the almost generic Fischer-Tropsch process, into liquid hydrocarbons.

But, if we need a more pure and concentrated supply of Carbon Dioxide, for the process of our subject herein, "US Patent Application 20090317882 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Process for Methane Production", then, as seen in our report of:

West Virginia Coal Association | Penn State and USDOE CO2 Capture for Hydrocarbon Synthesis | Research & Development; concerning: "Penn State EMS Energy Institute: CO2 Capture from Flue Gas Using Solid Molecular Basket Sorbents; DOE NETL Award No. DE-FE0000458; Project Objective: To develop a new generation of solid and regenerable polymeric 'molecular basket' sorbent (MBS for more efficient capture and separation of CO2 from flue gas of coal-fired power plants";

Penn State, again with funding from our Government, has puzzled that out, as well.

Make no mistake:

The Pennsylvania State University now has in hand an entire suite of technologies; which technologies, taken together, could enable us to start treating the Carbon Dioxide byproduct arising, in a very small way relative to natural sources of emission such as volcanoes, from our essential and vital use of Coal in the generation of electrical power, for what it truly is:

A valuable raw material resource from which, using only inputs of Water and environmental energy, we can efficiently synthesize Methane; and, which CO2-derived Methane we can then react with even more Carbon Dioxide, to form a hydrocarbon synthesis gas blend of Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen, which "syngas" can be reacted in any number of well-known catalytic chemical processes to synthesize any hydrocarbon, quite literally any liquid hydrocarbon, we now wage foreign wars and indenture our economic future to the alien powers of OPEC for the supply of.


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