posted on Apr, 10 2013 @ 01:25 PM
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...
Breakthrough in Hydrogen Fuel Production Could Revolutionize Alternative Energy
"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.
Link to Y.-H. Percival Zhang's Paper:
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)