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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 shaidorsai on 4/7/2013 4:00:59 PM , Rating: 4
Your assuming the hydrogen has to go into a cars gas tank...not necessarily. Why not use the hydrogen in place of fuels like coal to produce cheap abundant electricity. As electric/hybrid cars advance and their range improves they become a viable alternative to gas/diesel cars and by resolve many of our fuel problems all at once.

RE: One problem...
By silverblue on 4/8/2013 2:51:52 AM , Rating: 2
There is that, though I'd argue to supplement rather than replace altogether, at least in the short term.

Personally, I would think it's far safer having the H2 on a secure site rather than sitting in the middle of every car on a busy road, and besides which, there's a reduced cost for distribution as it's only going to the power plants.

The only thing we're not solving is the spiralling production of batteries, however one would argue that we were heading this way regardless. That's a discussion for another point in time, anyway.

RE: One problem...
By BRB29 on 4/8/2013 9:23:05 AM , Rating: 2
If we can fuse hydrogen into helium like the sun AND be able to control the energy, then we don't ever need to worry energy production again.

Interstellar space travel will actually be possible and humans then can start colonizing space. Global warming will be a thing of the past and electric cars will be mainstream.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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