Breakthrough in Plant-Produced Hydrogen Fuel

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posted on Apr, 10 2013 @ 01:25 PM
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Often, when quietly contemplating the plant's energy concerns, I always wondered why we don't we simply bio-engineer an organism completely dedicated to creating more energy than it produces at a rate, and amount suitable to human economics needs. And while this obviously far harder than it sounds there are people working on ideas similar to this. For example, recent advances in biomass energy through crops, plants, algae and so on. However, Y.H. Percival Zhang and is team at V.A. Tech have taken it one-step further:



Zhang and his team have succeeded in using xylose, the most abundant simple plant sugar, to produce a large quantity of hydrogen that previously was attainable only in theory. Zhang's method can be performed using any source of biomass.

The discovery is a featured editor's choice in an online version of the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition.

This new environmentally friendly
method of producing hydrogen utilizes renewable natural resources, releases almost no zero greenhouse gasses, and does not require costly or heavy metals. Previous methods to produce hydrogen are expensive and create greenhouse gases.


As for its economic feasibility and a general overview of the production process...



"The potential for profit and environmental benefits are why so many automobile, oil, and energy companies are working on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the transportation of the future," Zhang said. "Many people believe we will enter the hydrogen economy soon, with a market capacity of at least $1 trillion in the United States alone."
Obstacles to commercial production of hydrogen gas from biomass previously included the high cost of the processes used and the relatively low quantity of the end product.
But Zhang thinks he has found the answers to those problems.

For seven years, Zhang's team has been focused on finding non-traditional ways to produce high-yield hydrogen at low cost, specifically researching enzyme combinations, discovering novel enzymes, and engineering enzymes with desirable properties.

The team liberates the high-purity hydrogen under mild reaction conditions at 122 degree Fahrenheit and normal atmospheric pressure. The biocatalysts used to release the hydrogen are a group of enzymes artificially isolated from different microorganisms that thrive at extreme temperatures, some of which could grow at around the boiling point of water.

The researchers chose to use xylose, which comprises as much as 30 percent of plant cell walls. Despite its abundance, the use of xylose for releasing hydrogen has been limited. The natural or engineered microorganisms that most scientists use in their experiments cannot produce hydrogen in high yield because these microorganisms grow and reproduce instead of splitting water molecules to yield pure hydrogen.



Breakthrough in Hydrogen Fuel Production Could Revolutionize Alternative Energy Market


Link to Y.-H. Percival Zhang's Paper:
bioenergycenter.org...

While they are not exactly engineering a new plant, as I have often pondered--they are utilizing the energy producing capabilities already present in plants---something not unheard of, of course. But now it seems feasible through this new production method. This seems very promising.

The biggest problem, of course, will be the human factor. Will we be able and willing to incorporate hydrogen fuel into nearly every facet our economy? What do you guys think? Revolutionary or some old same old?
edit on 10-4-2013 by ForwardDrift because: (no reason given)




posted on Apr, 10 2013 @ 01:40 PM
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Well if they can cheaply incorporate it into society as you asked then I would say it would work quite well. This has been the main problem with alternative energy in the past, Its simply too expensive and too difficult to convert society into using it.

If they can show a cheap way to introduce it, a savings to the consumer, and a profit to the corporation than I see no reason why it wouldn't work. I've no doubt that companies such as big oil wouldn't simply switch to this if they can still maintain their profit margins.



posted on Apr, 10 2013 @ 01:44 PM
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Originally posted by Hopechest
Well if they can cheaply incorporate it into society as you asked then I would say it would work quite well. This has been the main problem with alternative energy in the past, Its simply too expensive and too difficult to convert society into using it.

If they can show a cheap way to introduce it, a savings to the consumer, and a profit to the corporation than I see no reason why it wouldn't work. I've no doubt that companies such as big oil wouldn't simply switch to this if they can still maintain their profit margins.


Exactly, the problem is, I don't think there is going to be a "cheap" way to convert our entire petroleum-based economy into a hydrogen-based economy. It will require short-term economic sacrifice that will, almost, inherently be messy and costly. However, the great benefit is the energy will have a far less-impact on the environment over-time. Furthermore, the resulting conversion of the economy could create an economic expansion of its own.
edit on 10-4-2013 by ForwardDrift because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 10 2013 @ 01:56 PM
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Originally posted by ForwardDrift

Originally posted by Hopechest
Well if they can cheaply incorporate it into society as you asked then I would say it would work quite well. This has been the main problem with alternative energy in the past, Its simply too expensive and too difficult to convert society into using it.

If they can show a cheap way to introduce it, a savings to the consumer, and a profit to the corporation than I see no reason why it wouldn't work. I've no doubt that companies such as big oil wouldn't simply switch to this if they can still maintain their profit margins.


Exactly, the problem is, I don't think there is going to be a "cheap" way to convert our entire petroleum-based economy into a hydrogen-based economy. It will require short-term economic sacrifice that will, almost, inherently be messy and costly. However, the great benefit is the energy will have a far less-impact on the environment over-time. Furthermore, the resulting conversion of the economy could create an economic expansion of its own.
edit on 10-4-2013 by ForwardDrift because: (no reason given)


Well the environmental impact is not bad enough to convince enough people that a conversion is required yet. Until they no longer have beaches to go to or cannot see the sunny sky through the smog your going to have a hard time getting them to believe there is a major problem.
edit on 10-4-2013 by Hopechest because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 10 2013 @ 03:03 PM
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Iceland is taking the lead on hydrogen fuel. At least they have an energy plan that will ween them off of oil. Maybe the U.S. government should start following suit, and stop having corporate oil dictate their greedy energy plan.



posted on Apr, 11 2013 @ 07:00 AM
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You know they are going to keep milking dino blood until even after peak oil is reached on rapid decline and it becomes too expensive to keep the industry afloat; that's when a new discovery will be hailed across the land, and the switch will go into full swing... but it won't be a new discovery it will be just repressed technology being released on purpose when the time is fertile.

This is just the way it works, let produce CD players milk that to the last.... then oh lets now release CD writable and milk that to it's last... then oh lets release CD write/erase and milk that to it's last, oh now lets produce solid state thumb drives and MP3 tech but only dish the tech out slowly 100MB or so at a time... just so we can stretch and milk every dollar we can out of people.

This goes on in every single sector of mass consumables, if you really look. Always a new and improved version hanging out and waiting for the signal to launch production.

So I rarely get excited over what's presented as new and shiny... since in reality it sat on a shelf old and dusty waiting for that green light.

That being said this research if it does have potential? Their concerns will be bought out by the conglomerate it would affect as insurance to their existing profit margins, and just shelved if and when the need to release the tech or whatever arises.

That's just how it works; in a Corporatocracy.



posted on Apr, 11 2013 @ 04:26 PM
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Originally posted by ForwardDrift
While they are not exactly engineering a new plant, as I have often pondered--they are utilizing the energy producing capabilities already present in plants---something not unheard of, of course. But now it seems feasible through this new production method. This seems very promising.

The biggest problem, of course, will be the human factor. Will we be able and willing to incorporate hydrogen fuel into nearly every facet our economy?
If it's really economical, there will be incentives to convert more to hydrogen but we already have some hydrogen powered vehicles so that isn't new technology, and it's not that hard to convert a lot of other tech to hydrogen. The problem with plants is, it takes farmland, so you've got to water the crops (water is an increasingly scarce resource in some areas), and the opportunity cost of not growing edible food instead, which drives food prices up, then you've got to harvest and process the plants, all of which takes a lot of energy, so it's a complicated economic analysis which hasn't worked to well with ethanol....but I'm not saying this won't work better, it might, but there isn't enough detail yet to know for sure, it's pretty early in the development process yet.

It doesn't sound like the holy grail, which would be high efficiency and cheap solar cells that can be put in the desert or on rooftops, so they don't need watering or displace farmland. If we had those, they could be used to produce hydrogen via electrolysis, and would be a renewable energy source.



posted on Apr, 12 2013 @ 12:36 PM
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Originally posted by Arbitrageur

Originally posted by ForwardDrift
While they are not exactly engineering a new plant, as I have often pondered--they are utilizing the energy producing capabilities already present in plants---something not unheard of, of course. But now it seems feasible through this new production method. This seems very promising.

The biggest problem, of course, will be the human factor. Will we be able and willing to incorporate hydrogen fuel into nearly every facet our economy?
If it's really economical, there will be incentives to convert more to hydrogen but we already have some hydrogen powered vehicles so that isn't new technology, and it's not that hard to convert a lot of other tech to hydrogen. The problem with plants is, it takes farmland, so you've got to water the crops (water is an increasingly scarce resource in some areas), and the opportunity cost of not growing edible food instead, which drives food prices up, then you've got to harvest and process the plants, all of which takes a lot of energy, so it's a complicated economic analysis which hasn't worked to well with ethanol....but I'm not saying this won't work better, it might, but there isn't enough detail yet to know for sure, it's pretty early in the development process yet.

It doesn't sound like the holy grail, which would be high efficiency and cheap solar cells that can be put in the desert or on rooftops, so they don't need watering or displace farmland. If we had those, they could be used to produce hydrogen via electrolysis, and would be a renewable energy source.


Well, actually, not with this new method, because the plant-protein being used for hydrogen conversion (xylose) is found in nearly any plant-biomass. You could literally biochemically separate this out of a weed or a grass, or anything. No large farm is required. And would include plants that don't necessarily need tons of water to survive. That's what makes this more economically feasible and different from the other biomass fuels. However, I will agree it is still in its early testing phase and needs more research.
edit on 12-4-2013 by ForwardDrift because: (no reason given)





 
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