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The team used xylose -- a simple plant sugar

Virginia Tech researchers have found a way to produce large amounts of hydrogen inexpensively using a simple plant sugar.

Y.H. Percival Zhang, study leader and an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, and his team have produced large quantities of hydrogen in an effort to lessen the dependence of fossil fuels.

Zhang and his team used xylose in the study, which is a sugar first isolated from wood. Not only is this form of hydrogen production inexpensive and environmentally friendly, but it can also occur using any source of biomass. 

Up until now, producing hydrogen gas from biomass was a costly process that didn't yield very much in the end.

For this study, Zhang and his team liberated the hydrogen under normal atmospheric pressure and mild reaction conditions at 122 degrees. A group of enzymes -- which were isolated from various microorganisms at extreme temperatures -- were used as biocatalysts to release the hydrogen.

The team used xylose to release the hydrogen, which hasn't been used much in the past because most scientists use natural or engineered microorganisms. These cannot create large quantities of hydrogen because the microorganisms grow and reproduce instead of splitting water molecules for the creation of pure hydrogen.

The energy stored in Xylose splits water molecules, thus creating very pure hydrogen that can be used by proton-exchange membrane fuel cells.

The team separated some of the enzymes from their native microorganisms to create a special enzyme mixture.  When the enzymes were combined with xylose and a polyphosphate, a large amount of hydrogen was liberated from the xylose.

In fact, the team produced about three times as much hydrogen as other hydrogen-producing microorganisms.

“Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Zhang. "Hydrogen is one of the most important biofuels of the future.”

Source: Virginia Tech News

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RE: A waste of time and waste
By mmatis on 4/7/2013 10:08:10 AM , Rating: 2
Sol just how far and how fast do you want to go wherever, using your solar cell? And by the way, don't forget to make sure the water is pure enough to electrolyze without fouling your system. But then stuff like that is not a problem when you only have to talk, not actually BUILD something. I've seen PLENTY of presentations that were almost as good as your idea. Funny how they never work worth shit when you actually try to build them.

RE: A waste of time and waste
By mike66 on 4/7/2013 7:13:25 PM , Rating: 2
I'll start with the diesel process first, it's already happening at small local sewage plants on a small scale here in Australia. They are now adding wood shavings and other biomass garbage to improve product yield, but could be scaled up by using a large city's output.
To produce water pure enough to electrolyze is simple, it's called evaporation and you can do it on a large scale using current solar technology now. Cleaning the electrolytic plates would not be to hard either.
xylose production is costly and causes a lot of pollution which is exactly what we don't want and it's only a part of the process needed to produce hydrogen in that manner.
I was maybe a bit too flippant in my first post but his process seems to be to complex, costly and wasteful to be of any use. What we all need is a simple and none explosive way of storing it as fuel in cars, that's the hard part.

RE: A waste of time and waste
By BRB29 on 4/8/2013 9:17:51 AM , Rating: 2
It cost a lot of money to distill water and keep it pure. Are you saying to use solar panels to distill water? That's a high cost. On top of that, we're trying to find a economical way to do this and be able to scale.

RE: A waste of time and waste
By mike66 on 4/8/2013 6:37:39 PM , Rating: 2
An evaporation chamber should not be that costly to build, it's the heat energy which is the major cost, passive solar energy ( direct sunlight ) may be enough too make it viable and if not extra heat energy could be added via a number of sources such as geothermal or maybe wind turbine ( water does not need to boil to make it evaporate ). Storage of the water is cheap, a simple sealed tank should be enough. Solar panels ( cells ) are too generate the electricity needed to electrolyze the water, it should be able to scale quite well. We already have solar farms to generate electricity at a reasonable cost. Establishment of new systems are where the cost is and once up and running such a system would be cheap to run.

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