Fuel cells are a highly promising means of producing electricity. However, the hydrogen they require is still largely obtained from coal, oil, or natural gas. Producing hydrogen from less expensive biomass is an attractive alternative, but has not produced sufficient yields to date.
In the journal Angewandte Chemie, a team of American and Mexican researchers has now introduced a cell-free biosystem of thirteen enzymes that can produce hydrogen from xylose, one of the main components of plants, in yields of over 95 %.
Xylose is a pentose (a sugar molecule containing five carbon atoms), and is one of the main building blocks of lignocellulosic biomass—wood and parts of woody plants. It is not economically feasible to separate xylose from the other components of biomass for the production of hydrogen. There are microorganisms that can convert xylose and glucose, the building block that makes up cellulose, into hydrogen. However, the yields are very low.
Y.-H. Percival Zhang at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, USA) and his co-workers in the USA and Mexico have thus resorted to a trick: They are using the enzymes used by the microorganisms, but in a cell-free system. They combined thirteen enzymes and various cofactors like NADPH into a complex cascade that do not exist in the natural metabolic systems. In a bioreactor, they were able to produce hydrogen from xylose with a yield of over 95 %.
The downside: In the first step of the reaction, xylose is isomerized into xylulose, which must be activated in a second step by addition of a phosphate group. This requires ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the "energy carrier" of cells, to "pump" chemical energy into the enzyme cascade. Unfortunately, ATP is a very expensive material. The thing that depends on ATP is the splitting of the energy-rich bonds between individual phosphate groups. The researchers thus had an idea: They wanted to replace the ATP with a more economical substance, polyphosphate, which also contains energetic phosphate bonds. However, this requires a xylulokinase, an enzyme that attaches phosphate groups to xylulose, and can use polyphosphate instead of ATP.
Polyphosphate is found in volcanic rocks and in deep-oceanic steam vents. Primeval organisms may have used this substance. The researchers isolated the gene for a xylulokinase from thermotoga maritima, a thermophilic microorganism found in such environments, and used genetic engineering to produce the enzyme. As they hoped, this enzyme can also use polyphosphate and can successfully replace the ATP-dependent xylulokinase in the enzyme cascade.
This team had previously developed a synthetic enzymatic route for the production of hydrogen from cellulose. Now both of the major components of biomass, cellulose and xylose, can be converted together in a new approach for the more economical production of hydrogen.About the Author
Author: Y.-H. Percival Zhang, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg (USA), http://filebox.vt.edu/users/ypzhang/zhang.htm
Title: High-Yield Production of Dihydrogen from Xylose by Using a Synthetic Enzyme Cascade in a Cell-Free System
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201300766
Y.-H. Percival Zhang | Angewandte Chemie
Supercoiled DNA is far more dynamic than the 'Watson-Crick' double helix
13.10.2015 | University of Leeds
New Oregon approach for 'nanohoops' could energize future devices
13.10.2015 | University of Oregon
Physicists of TU Berlin and mathematicians of MATHEON are so successful that even the prestigious journal “Nature Communications” reported on their project.
Security in data transfer is an important issue, and not only since the NSA scandal. Sometimes, however, the need for speed conflicts to a certain degree with...
Having a light touch can make a hefty difference in how well animals and robots move across challenging granular surfaces such as snow, sand and leaf litter. Research reported October 9 in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics shows how the design of appendages – whether legs or wheels – affects the ability of both robots and animals to cross weak and flowing surfaces.
Using an air fluidized bed trackway filled with poppy seeds or glass spheres, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology systematically varied the...
Nondestructive material testing (NDT) is a fast and effective way to analyze the quality of a product during the manufacturing process. Because defective materials can lead to malfunctioning finished products, NDT is an essential quality assurance measure, especially in the manufacture of safety-critical components such as automotive B-pillars. NDT examines the quality without damaging the component or modifying the surface of the material. At this year's Blechexpo trade fair in Stuttgart, Fraunhofer IZFP will have an exhibit that demonstrates the nondestructive testing of high-strength automotive body parts using 3MA. The measurement results are available in a matter of seconds.
To minimize vehicle weight and fuel consumption while providing the highest level of crash safety, automotive bodies are reinforced with elements made from...
The MICADO camera, a first light instrument for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), has entered a new phase in the project: by agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding, the partners in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Italy, have all confirmed their participation. Following this milestone, the project's transition into its preliminary design phase was approved at a kick-off meeting held in Vienna. Two weeks earlier, on September 18, the consortium and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is building the telescope, have signed the corresponding collaboration agreement.
As the first dedicated camera for the E-ELT, MICADO will equip the giant telescope with a capability for diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared...
Self-driving cars will be on our streets in the foreseeable future. In Graz, research is currently dedicated to an innovative driver assistance system that takes over control if there is a danger of collision. It was nature that inspired Dr Manfred Hartbauer from the Institute of Zoology at the University of Graz: in dangerous traffic situations, migratory locusts react around ten times faster than humans. Working together with an interdisciplinary team, Hartbauer is investigating an affordable collision detector that is equipped with artificial locust eyes and can recognise potential crashes in time, during both day and night.
Inspired by insects
01.10.2015 | Event News
30.09.2015 | Event News
17.09.2015 | Event News
13.10.2015 | Trade Fair News
13.10.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
13.10.2015 | Health and Medicine