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US researchers create nano-reactor for hydrogen biofuel production

CTBR Staff Writer Published 07 January 2016

Researchers at Indiana University in the US have developed a nano-reactor from bacteria for hydrogen biofuel production.


The material, P22-Hyd, is a modified enzyme that catalyzes the formation of hydrogen, a key phase in the process of splitting water to produce oxygen and hydrogen for fueling cars that run on water.

Produced at room temperature by employing a simple fermentation process, the biomaterial is said to be 150 times more efficient than the unaltered form of the enzyme.

The researchers have used Hydrogenase in making the enzyme which is produced by two genes from the common bacteria Escherichia coli inserted inside the protective capsid that comes from the bacterial virus known as bacteriophage P22.

The P22-Hyd is said to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly to produce when compared to other materials currently used to create fuel cells.

Indiana University Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry Earl Blough Professor Trevor Douglas said: "Essentially, we've taken a virus's ability to self-assemble myriad genetic building blocks and incorporated a very fragile and sensitive enzyme with the remarkable property of taking in protons and spitting out hydrogen gas.

"The end result is a virus-like particle that behaves the same as a highly sophisticated material that catalyzes the production of hydrogen."

In addition, P22-Hyd not only breaks the chemical bonds of water to create hydrogen but also recombines hydrogen and oxygen to generate power.

The research was backed by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Image: Trevor Douglas. Photo: courtesy of Montana State University / Indiana University.