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Termites generally don’t elicit a whole lot of love. But surprisingly, this wood-eating insect may hold the key to transforming coal — a big polluting chunk of the global energy supply — into cleaner energy for the world, according to University of Delaware researchers.
In the American Chemical Society journal Energy and Fuels, UD Professor Prasad Dhurjati and his research team describe in detail how a community of termite-gut microbes converts coal into methane, the chief ingredient in natural gas. The study, which produced computer models of the step-by-step biochemical process, was a collaboration with ARCTECH, a company based in Centerville, Virginia, that has been working with these microbes for the past 30 years. ARCTECH provided the UD team with the experimental data that was used to validate the models.