Termites as a source of power .
One of the US Department of Energy’s most enduring goals is to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of cleaner energy, such as hydrogen produced from plant biomass fermentation. Termites may help reach this goal through metagenomics.
Termites are capable of producing up to two liters of hydrogen from fermenting a single sheet of paper, making them one of the planet’s most efficient bioreactors. Termites achieve this high degree of efficiency by exploiting the metabolic capabilities of about 200 different species of microbes that inhabit their hindguts.
Hydrogen is normally created by using electricity to remove hydrogen molecules from water or natural gas, but the electricity is most often generated using fossil fuels that emit carbon pollutants. The microbial community in the termite gut efficiently manufactures large quantities of clean hydrogen. By sequencing thetermite’s microbial community, it may be possible to get a better understanding of these biochemical pathways.