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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: One problem...
By StevoLincolnite on 4/7/2013 11:03:20 AM , Rating: 2
I fixed my problem with oil years ago.

That's LPG gas, compatible with current engines, cheap, readily available, mileage drops a little, but when it's less than half the price, you can give it that concession.

And... Works with current petrol engines.

Not sure what availability or price is like in the US, but I honestly can't believe more people don't use it.


RE: One problem...
By Lord 666 on 4/7/2013 11:49:34 AM , Rating: 3
Right on, Mad Max. Agreed that the US is slow to change, but its partially protectionism of big business. I'm a US citizen, just calling it how I see it.

Actually, we are slowly/quickly (depends on who you ask) destroying our environment here by fracking for NG. Next up is scrapping for shale/oil sands.


RE: One problem...
By Ammohunt on 4/8/2013 11:34:15 AM , Rating: 1
Destroying the environment a mile below the earths surface? Puhlese anti-fossil fuel whack jobs will make up any nonsense in order to keep us in the stone age or keep us chasing the mythical green energy unicorn.Splitting hydrogen from water only to combine it again to produce energy for locomotion with water as the byproduct makes sense ethanol,solar,wind etc.. doesn't.


RE: One problem...
By random2 on 4/9/2013 4:35:32 AM , Rating: 1
Ever hear of a water table?


RE: One problem...
By Ammohunt on 4/9/2013 1:41:32 PM , Rating: 3
Every study geology? if the water table is a mile under the ground chances are you are aren't pulling well water from it...


RE: One problem...
By deltaend on 4/7/2013 11:48:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I fixed my problem with oil years ago.


Right, because LPG gas isn't derived from oil at all... You are simply trading one oil product for another here. We need to be off of oil, not swapping our dependence from one type to another.


RE: One problem...
By Tibbz on 4/9/2013 9:23:54 AM , Rating: 1
^^This i was scratching my head at that comment. Though US has an overwhelming abundance of Natural Gas and that will be a good patch if its further developed; but only to drive down fuel costs and overseas dependancy.... not much of an environmental benefit for what it is worth. Other than that Hydrogen is the way to go


RE: One problem...
By mars2k on 4/8/2013 8:31:18 AM , Rating: 2
Good for you Zhang, there was a post last week about some auto maker giving up on hydrogen as a hydrocarbon fuel substitute because they "just couldn't see how". Thank God others can. No matter what the arguments are this is just one ray of hope among many. We have to get off the carbon tit.


RE: One problem...
By Stuka on 4/10/2013 11:03:10 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. Electric is a great endgame, but I don't see battery tech being able to keep pace with hydrogren tech. Hydrogen viability is hinged on production costs, battery viability is hinged on materials science. The former being far more tangible than the latter.


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