Methane-Eating Microbes

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Methane-eating microbes, also known as methanotrophs, are microorganisms that consume methane as their primary energy source. These microbes naturally occur in various environments, including soils, oceans, and wetlands, where they play a crucial role in regulating methane levels in the atmosphere. This innovation focuses on harnessing the power of these microbes to mitigate methane emissions from various anthropogenic sources, such as landfills, agriculture, and oil and gas operations.

Impact on climate action

Methane-Eating Microbes offer a game-changing solution under the theme of Reducing Non-CO2 Emissions. By consuming methane, a potent greenhouse gas, these microbes mitigate its impact on climate change. Their deployment can significantly curb methane emissions from various sources, contributing to global efforts in combating climate change.


  • Methanotrophy: This biological process involves the oxidation of methane by methanotrophs, converting it into less harmful compounds like carbon dioxide and water.
  • Bioaugmentation: This technique involves introducing specific methanotroph strains to environments with high methane emissions, enhancing the natural methane oxidation capacity.
  • Biofiltration: Biofilters containing methanotrophs can be used to treat methane-rich gas streams, such as those from landfills or anaerobic digesters, converting methane into less harmful products.
  • Biostimulation: This approach involves modifying environmental conditions, such as nutrient availability and oxygen levels, to stimulate the growth and activity of native methanotrophs.

TRL : 4-7 (depending on the specific application and environment)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Genetic Engineering of Methanotrophs: Scientists are exploring ways to genetically modify methanotrophs to enhance their methane oxidation rates, improve their tolerance to environmental conditions, and expand their application range.
  • Microbial Consortia: Creating microbial consortia with complementary metabolic capabilities can optimize methane oxidation and improve the efficiency of bioremediation strategies.
  • Bioreactors for Methane Capture: Innovative bioreactor designs are being developed to enhance the contact between methanotrophs and methane-rich gas streams, improving the efficiency of methane capture and conversion.
  • Combining Bioaugmentation with Other Mitigation Technologies: Integrating methanotroph-based solutions with other methane mitigation technologies, such as cover systems for landfills, can further enhance emission reduction.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Methanotroph Metabolic Engineering
  • Bioaugmentation Strategies
  • Methane Biofiltration Techniques
  • Biostimulation Methods for Methanotrophs
  • Genetic Modification of Methanotrophs
  • Microbial Consortia Optimization
  • Innovative Bioreactor Designs
  • Enhancing Methane Capture Efficiency
  • Integration of Methane Mitigation Technologies
  • Agricultural Methane Mitigation Solutions
  • Methane Mitigation in Oil and Gas Operations
  • Methanotroph-Based Carbon Capture
  • Methane Bioconversion for Energy Production
  • Methanotroph Applications in Biogas Upgrading
  • Methane Mitigation in Livestock Farming

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Newlight Technologies:
    • Technology Focus: Newlight Technologies specializes in capturing and converting methane emissions into sustainable materials using methane-eating microbes. They employ biotechnology and advanced manufacturing processes to produce biodegradable plastics and other materials.
    • Uniqueness: Their approach stands out for its innovative use of methane as a feedstock for material production, addressing both environmental and economic challenges associated with methane emissions.
    • End-User Segments: Newlight’s products could appeal to industries seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics, such as packaging, consumer goods, and textiles. Additionally, they might target companies aiming to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact.
  • Mango Materials:
    • Technology Focus: Mango Materials focuses on utilizing methane-eating microbes to produce biodegradable polymers, specifically polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). Their technology enables the conversion of methane into bioplastics, offering a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based plastics.
    • Uniqueness: Mango Materials is unique for its focus on PHA production from methane, providing a renewable and environmentally friendly solution to the plastic pollution problem.
    • End-User Segments: Their biodegradable plastics could find applications in various industries, including packaging, agriculture, textiles, and medical devices, where there’s a growing demand for eco-friendly materials.
  • Kiverdi:
    • Technology Focus: Kiverdi harnesses methane-eating microbes to produce a range of sustainable products, including proteins, oils, and biochemicals. They utilize synthetic biology and fermentation processes to convert methane emissions into valuable resources.
    • Uniqueness: Kiverdi’s versatility in converting methane into different products sets them apart. They offer a scalable and cost-effective solution for methane utilization, contributing to both environmental sustainability and resource efficiency.
    • End-User Segments: Their products could cater to various industries, including food and feed, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and renewable energy, where there’s a demand for sustainable and high-quality ingredients sourced from alternative feedstocks.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of Washington:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Washington are pioneering the development of methane-eating microbes that efficiently consume methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and convert it into less harmful byproducts. They are employing genetic engineering techniques to enhance the methane-consuming capabilities of these microbes, making them more effective at mitigating methane emissions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Washington’s approach involves the discovery and optimization of novel microbial strains capable of thriving in diverse environmental conditions, including those found in industrial settings such as landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and agricultural facilities. By harnessing the natural ability of these microbes to metabolize methane, researchers aim to provide a sustainable solution for reducing methane emissions at the source.
    • End-use Applications: The research at the University of Washington has broad applications across various sectors, including waste management, energy production, and agriculture. Methane-eating microbes can be deployed in anaerobic digesters to enhance biogas production from organic waste, reduce methane emissions from livestock operations, and mitigate fugitive emissions from oil and gas facilities.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at UC Berkeley are advancing the field of synthetic biology to engineer methane-eating microbes with enhanced metabolic pathways for more efficient methane consumption. They are designing genetic circuits and microbial consortia capable of converting methane into value-added products such as biofuels, bioplastics, and pharmaceuticals.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UC Berkeley’s research integrates principles of systems biology and metabolic engineering to design bespoke microbial strains tailored for specific applications. By understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying methane metabolism, researchers can optimize microbial performance and productivity under different environmental conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The research at UC Berkeley has implications for a wide range of industries, including biotechnology, renewable energy, and carbon capture. Engineered methane-eating microbes can be used to produce bio-based chemicals and fuels from methane feedstocks, thereby reducing reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating climate change.
  • Radboud University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Radboud University are investigating the microbial communities present in natural environments, such as wetlands, peatlands, and permafrost regions, to identify novel methane-eating microbes with unique metabolic capabilities. They are employing advanced genomic and metagenomic techniques to unravel the genetic diversity and functional potential of these microbial communities.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Radboud University’s research focuses on harnessing the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of microbial communities to develop bio-based solutions for methane mitigation. By studying microbial interactions and adaptation mechanisms in natural ecosystems, researchers aim to identify promising candidates for bioaugmentation and bioremediation strategies.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Radboud University has implications for environmental conservation, land management, and climate policy. Methane-eating microbes discovered in natural habitats can be leveraged to restore degraded ecosystems, mitigate methane emissions from agricultural and industrial activities, and inform sustainable land-use practices for climate resilience.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

  • Biofiltration Systems: Biofilters containing methanotrophs are commercially available and widely used to treat methane emissions from landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and agricultural operations.
  • Landfill Cover Systems: Some landfill operators are incorporating methanotrophic biocovers into their landfill design to enhance methane oxidation and reduce emissions.