DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of Coal degrading archaea (unknown species) isolated from a coal bed seam below the earth's surface. Originally the production of natural gas (methane) was thought to be triggered by high temperature. Now, it has been found that methane gas formation in subsurface coal seams is a biogenic process that is carried out by microbes. Carbon acts as a food source for anaerobic microbes in the methanogenic conversion of coal in to methane. Methane is the end product of microbial metabolism in extremophilic environments. The growth rate of these carbon converting microbes is slow and as a result the generation of gas is a very slow process. At least 50 percent of all commercial natural gas is derived from microbial processes. Magnification: x4,000 when shortest axis printed at 25 millimetres.
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