Potential Impact

On the basis of this quote we thought about other possible applications of E. cowli. Not only could the isolation and successful production of the sMMO have a great impact on the greenhouse effect, but it could also facilitate addressing problems of safety, pollution and energy. 

If the sMMO is immobilized and introduced into the cow’s rumen the worldwide methane emissions could be reduced by 164 million tons, based on a total number of 1.5 billion cows on Earth. In effect, this equals 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide! More pictorially, our application can compensate the impact 2.8 million cars, assuming that one car releases approximately 1,800 t of carbon dioxide annually. See our example calculation

In addition to the effect on the world's climate, the application in cows has another positive impact: safety. Earlier this year, for instance, high amounts of methane accumulated in a cow barn in Germany and a single spark caused the building to blow up [1]. By reducing the methane emissions of cows incidents like this could be prevented. 

As the sMMO is able to degrade a broad variety of substrates such as one of the major water pollutants, the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), our project can serve as a foundation for a new approach of biological water treatment or environmental care in general [2]. 

One could also exploit the ability of the sMMO to convert methane to methanol: Methane can serve as a source of energy, but due to its gaseous state it is very difficult to transport compared to liquid methanol. So far, methane is chemically converted to methanol for transportation and later on further to components of diesel fuel and gasoline or to propylene and ethylene, important precursors of important chemical substances. Using the sMMO to oxidize methane is a much more economical and eco-friendly approach for utilizing methane as a resource for energy production [3]. Hence, our project has a huge significance not only for climate but also for a wide-ranging spectrum of other problems and opportunities. Therefore, the isolation and successful expression of the sMMO has a huge impact on various areas and provides multiple possibilities for application.


  1. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25922514 (10.10.2014)
  2. Brussea GA, Tsien HC, Hanson RS, Wackett LP (1990) Optimization of trichloroethylene oxidation by methanotrophs and the use of a colorimetric assay to detect soluble methane monooxygenase activity. Biodegradation 1:19-29
  3. Tinberg CE, Lippard SJ (2011) Dioxygen Activation in Soluble Methane Monooxygenase. Acc Chem Res 44:280-8