By adding a few modifications to their successful wastewater fuel cell, researchers have coaxed common bacteria to produce hydrogen in a new, efficient way.
Bruce Logan and colleagues at Penn State University had already shown success at using microbes to produce electricity. Now, using starter material that could theoretically be sourced from a salad bar, the researchers have coaxed those same microbes to generate hydrogen.
By tweaking their design, improving conditions for the bacteria, and adding a small jolt of electricity, they increased the hydrogen yield to a new record for this type of system.
"We achieved the highest hydrogen yields ever obtained with this approach from different sources of organic matter, such as yields of 91 percent using vinegar (acetic acid) and 68 percent using cellulose," said Logan.
In certain configurations, nearly all of the hydrogen contained in the molecules of source material converted to useable hydrogen gas, an efficiency that could eventually open the door to bacterial hydrogen production on a larger scale.
Logan and lead author Shaoan Cheng announced their results in the Nov. 12, 2007, online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Bruce Logan is a clear leader in this area of research on sustainable energy," said Bruce Hamilton, NSF director of the environmental sustainability program at NSF and the officer overseeing Logan's research grant. "Advances in sustainable energy capabilities are of paramount importance to our nation's security and economic well-being. We have been supporting his cutting-edge research on microbial fuel cells for a number of years and it is wonderful to see the outstanding results that he continues to produce."
Other systems produce hydrogen on a larger scale, but few if any match the new system for energy efficiency.
Even with the small amount of electricity applied, the hydrogen ultimately provides more energy as a fuel than the electricity needed to drive the reactor. Incorporating all energy inputs and outputs, the overall efficiency of the vinegar-fueled system is better than 80 percent, far better than the efficiency for generation of the leading alternative fuel, ethanol.
Even most electrolysis techniques, methods to extract hydrogen from water using electricity, pale in comparison to the new method.
"We can do that by using the bacteria to efficiently extract energy from the organic matter," said Logan. By perfecting the environment for the bacteria to do what they already do in nature, the new approach can be three to ten times more efficient than standard electrolysis.
Additional information about the new technology and how it works can be found in the Penn State press release at http://
Josh Chamot | EurekAlert!
More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy