Sugar Fueled Cars Get Closer To Reality
April 11, 2008 1:31 PM
comment(s) - last by
Percival Zhang, a scientist at Virginia Tech, leads the team which is researching the enzymatic method of hydrogen production, which they claim now holds the current record for efficiency.
(Source: Virginia Tech.)
New process emulates nature to yield most efficient hydrogen production yet
Hydrogen production is one of the hottest research topics at the present. With fossil fuel facing inevitable depletion, researchers are in a scramble, investigating hydrogen, synthetic gas, and other forms of energy fixation and production fixing solar energy into a fuel source. There remains many exotic methods of hydrogen production from
alloy catalysis of water
photosynthetic cells that emulate nature by using light absorbing pigments
Now scientists with Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Georgia claim to have developed the most cost-effective and efficient hydrogen production process yet. In the new process sugar, water, and a cocktail of 13 power enzymes are combined to yield carbon dioxide and hydrogen under mild reaction conditions.
The research was reported before The American Chemical Society, a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress, which aims to further chemistry research and claims to be the world's largest scientific society. The research, according to the researchers, will help to eliminate the hurdles which the hydrogen economy faces-- production, storage, and distribution. By relying on sugar the latter problems could be solved and production would be as simple as using the researcher's production method.
Lead researcher Y.-H. Percival Zhang, Ph.D., a biochemical engineer at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va states, "This is revolutionary work. This has opened up a whole new direction in hydrogen research. With technology improvement, sugar-powered vehicles could come true eventually."
The group points out that current production methods from natural gas, that hope to fuel the limited developing fleet of fuel cell hydrogen cars,
such as the Honda Civic FCX
, are too expensive and inefficient to ever see widespread use.
Microbial production remains a promising alternative
, but the yield levels are too low to currently be of much use.
Zhang and his fellow researchers are strong proponents of using biomass to produce hydrogen via enzyme catalyzed reactions. The researchers have succeeded already in catalyzing the reaction of starch, and believe they can achieve hydrogen production from cellulose as well.
In the groups experiments, starch from plant mass was combined in water with 13 different, well-known enzymes. The mixture was left to react at 86 F. The results was a mixture of pure carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The process produces less pollution than traditional energy production as it does not yield nitrate or sulfate pollutants. The new method is known as “in vitro synthetic biology" as it uses enzymes. While it did produce three times the theoretical yield of anaerobic fermentation, Zhang says much work needs to be done to up the speed of the reaction and further up the yield percentage in order to make it commercially viable.
The currently plan of attack for Zhang and his team is to look for higher temperature enzymes and carry the reaction out under a higher temperature, in order to increase the reaction speed. Enzymes are typically very temperature sensitive as they are normally proteins, which denature when in an environment with too extreme temperature or pH. The researchers also hope that by replacing several enzymes they can enable cellulose processing.
Zhang thinks that one day people will go to the grocery store and buy cellulose/starch packs to power their cars. These packs will be converted enzymatically into hydrogen, with little pollution, and carry the drivers to their destinations. Alternatively he states, a fuel-station style infrastructure could also develop.
How long until this technology is avialable? The team estimates that it will take 8 to 10 years to optimize the production to where it is competitive for automobiles, so don't hold your breath. The team also aims to create a scaled down version of the tech for small sugar-powered batteries for MP3 players and other small electronics. Its planned batteries will be similar to
those developed by Sony
methanol version champion by MTI Micro
, which are being sold commercially next year. The battery technology will be deploying in a closer 3 to 5 years, so hopefully at least in the near future the realization of the technology will allow you to be rocking out to
on your sugar powered MP3 player.
The research is being funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science of Virginia Tech.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
Enzyme heat problem
4/11/2008 3:35:01 PM
Not that Ph.D microbiologists don't already know this but to solve this enzyme trouble they should look to the metabolic pathways of hyperthermophilic bacteria whose proteins are adapted not to denature at extreme temperature (80 C).
"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer
Company Promises Mobile Fuel Cells For Next Year
April 7, 2008, 7:39 PM
Purdue Develops Alloy For Commercially Viable Hydrogen Production
February 21, 2008, 1:43 PM
Solar Cell Makes Hydrogen Via Synthetic Photosynthesis
February 19, 2008, 12:13 AM
Honda Unveils Production FCX Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle
November 15, 2007, 9:41 AM
Microbial Hydrogen Production Threatens Extinction for the Ethanol Dinosaur
November 15, 2007, 9:51 AM
Scientist Confirm Men are More Likely to Die in "Idiotic" Ways
December 17, 2014, 1:07 PM
Shoppers Surprised to Find Cards Against Humanity's Bullsh*t is Real Feces
December 16, 2014, 11:14 PM
Air Force Worries Hot Fuel Could Harm F-35, "Proactively" Paints Trucks Shiny
December 11, 2014, 9:06 AM
McDonald's is Testing Tablet-Based Burger Customization at 30 Franchises
December 10, 2014, 11:30 AM
Detroit Pulls Together Amidst Massive Blackout
December 2, 2014, 3:57 PM
Some Dark Side For Your Black Friday: Official Star Wars Ep. VII Trailer Lands
November 28, 2014, 1:02 PM
Most Popular Articles
BlackBerry Classic Sells Out Online (Seriously, It Has) for North America
December 15, 2014, 7:07 PM
After Coming So Close to Recovering, Northern White Rhino is Nearly Extinct
December 15, 2014, 11:30 AM
Peter Sunde is Sickened by Today's Pirate Bay, Say Internet Activism is Dying
December 15, 2014, 6:02 AM
Quick Note: Windows Phone Finally Gets Candy Crush Saga
December 13, 2014, 2:03 PM
LaWS (Laser) "Kills" Boat-Hauled Fuel Tanks, UAV "Bomber" in the Persian Gulf
December 12, 2014, 8:31 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information