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Known for their ability to remove methane from the environment and convert it into a usable fuel, methanotrophic bacteria have long fascinated researchers. But how, exactly, these bacteria naturally perform such a complex reaction has been a mystery.

Now an interdisciplinary team at Northwestern University has found that the enzyme responsible for the methane-methanol conversion catalyzes this reaction at a site that contains just one copper ion.

This finding could lead to newly designed, human-made catalysts that can convert methane -- a highly potent greenhouse gas -- to readily usable methanol with the same effortless mechanism.

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Category: Science