Feeds

Scientists push bacteria to quadruple hydrogen production

Amazing what a zap of electricty will do

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Researchers at Penn State university have discovered a new way of stimulating bacteria to extract hydrogen from bio-matter. The technique can yield four times as much hydrogen as fermentation alone, and unlike traditional fermentation, is not limited to carbohydrate based biomass.

Dr. Bruce Logan, professor of environmental engineering at Penn State, said that the The microbial fuel cell (MFC) can theoretically be used to get high yields of hydrogen from any biodegradable, dissolved, organic matter - human, agricultural or industrial wastewater. At the same time, the process would clean the waste water.

Many researchers are working on new ways of generating hydrogen, in anticipation of it becoming a much more important fuel source in the future.

Logan commented: "While there is likely insufficient waste biomass to sustain a global hydrogen economy, this form of renewable energy production may help offset the substantial costs of wastewater treatment as well as provide a contribution to nations able to harness hydrogen as an energy source."

In a paper entitled Electrochemically Assisted Microbial Production of Hydrogen from Acetate, the researchers explain that the amount of hydrogen produced by bacteria is limited by the so-called fermentation barrier. Without extra power, bacteria will produce hydrogen and other dead-end products such as acetic and butyric acids.

With a small power injection, around 0.25 volts or about one tenth of that required for electrolysis, the bacteria will break acetic acid down further, releasing more hydrogen and some carbon dioxide.

Logan explains that the research team has used a microbial fuel cell that was developed to clean waste water, and produce electricity. By preventing oxygen from getting in, and adding a small amount of electricity, they found it would generate hydrogen instead.

When the bacteria eat biomass, they transfer electrons to the anode. The bacteria also release protons or hydrogen ions, which go into solution. The electrons on the anode migrate via a wire to the cathode, where they are electrochemically assisted to combine with the protons and produce hydrogen gas.

The research is published online now, and is scheduled for publication in a future issue of Environmental Science and Technology. ®

Related stories

Nanotech's grand challenge is sustainable development
Hydrogen cars by 2012 says DaimlerChrysler
UK failing CO2 targets

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.