Sunday, April 21, 2013

Clean Energy Breakthrough: Scientists Extract Hydrogen Gas From Plants

plant 2Researchers at Virginia Tech have developed a breakthrough in hydrogen energy, something that has always been known to challenge fossil fuel dominance. They have developed a process that extracts large quantities of hydrogen gas from plants in an eco-friendly and renewable way. This is yet another alternative we are now aware of that could end our dependence on fossil fuels.
Y.H. Percival Zhang is an associate professor at Virginia Tech, along with other researchers he developed a new method of using customized enzymes to produce high quantities of hydrogen out of xylose, a type of sugar that is present in plants.  The new environmentally friendly method of producing hydrogen utilizes renewable natural resources, and releases almost zero greenhouse gasses. Previous hydrogen production techniques have usually been costly and create greenhouse gasses. The discovery is a feature in an online version of the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition.
The high-purity hydrogen is developed under reaction conditions at 122 degrees Fahrenheit and normal atmospheric pressure. A group of enzymes that are artificially isolated from different micro-organisms that thrive at extreme temperatures are used as biocatalysts that can thrive and grow at around the boiling point of water. To liberate the hydrogen from the planet, scientists separated multiple enzymes from their native micro-organisms to make an enzyme mix that does not occur in nature. When the enzymes are combined with xylose (sugar from plant) and a polyphosphate they liberate the high volume of hydrogen from the xylose. This process results in the production of three times as much hydrogen as other hydrogen-producing microorganisms.

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