Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

May 04

Hydrogen Gas Production Doubled with New Super Bacterium

Posted in Energy Inventions | Future Technology | Hydrogen Fuel

Hydrogen Gas Production Hydrogen gas is today used primarily for manufacturing chemicals, but a bright future is predicted for it as a vehicle fuel in combination with fuel cells. In order to produce hydrogen gas in a way that is climate neutral, bacteria are added to forestry or household waste, using a method similar to biogas production. One problem with this production method is that hydrogen exchange is low, i.e. the raw materials generate little hydrogen gas. Now, for the first time, researchers have studied a newly discovered bacterium that produces twice as much hydrogen gas as the bacteria currently used. The results show how, when and why the bacterium can perform its excellent work and increase the possibilities of competitive biological production of hydrogen gas.


“There are three important explanations for why this bacterium, which is called Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus, produces more hydrogen gas than others. One is that it has adapted to a low-energy environment, which has caused it to develop effective transport systems for carbohydrates and the ability to break down inaccessible parts of plants with the help of enzymes. This in turn means it produces more hydrogen gas. The second explanation is that it can cope with higher growth temperatures than many other bacteria. The higher the temperature, the more hydrogen gas can be formed,” summarizes Karin Willquist, doctoral student in Applied Microbiology at Lund University. She will soon be presenting a thesis on the subject.

The third explanation is that the CS bacterium can still produce hydrogen gas even in difficult conditions, for example high partial hydrogen pressure, which is necessary if biological hydrogen gas production is to be financially viable.

On the other hand, the bacterium does not like high concentrations of salt or hydrogen gas. These affect the signaling molecules in the bacterium and, in turn, the metabolism in such a way that it produces less hydrogen gas.

“But it is possible to direct the process so that salt and hydrogen gas concentrations do not become too high,” points out Karin Willquist.

When hydrogen is used as an energy carrier, for example in car engines, water is the only by-product. However, because the hydrogen gas production itself, if it is carried out by a conventional method, consumes large amounts of energy, hydrogen gas is still not a very environmentally friendly energy carrier.

Reforming of methane or electrolysis of water are currently the most common ways to produce hydrogen gas. However, methane gas is not renewable and its use leads to increased carbon dioxide emissions. Electrolysis requires energy, usually acquired from fossil fuels, but also sometimes from wind or solar power. Hydrogen gas can also be generated from wind power, which is an environmentally friendly alternative, even if wind power is controversial for other reasons.

“If hydrogen gas is produced from biomass, there is no addition of carbon dioxide because the carbon dioxide formed in the production is the same that is absorbed from the atmosphere by the plants being used. Bio-hydrogen gas will probably complement biogas in the future,” predicts Karin Willquist.

Today there are cars that run on hydrogen gas, e.g. the Honda FCX, even if they are few in number. The reason for this is that it is too expensive to produce hydrogen gas and there is no functioning hydrogen infrastructure.

“A first step towards a hydrogen gas society could be to mix hydrogen gas with methane gas and use the existing methane gas infrastructure. Buses in Malmö, for example, drive on a mixture of hydrogen gas and methane gas,” says Karin Willquist.

Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus was isolated for the first time in 1987 in a hot spring in New Zealand. It is only recently that researchers have really begun to realize the potential of the bacterium.

  • Richard Fletcher

    CS looks like it has a huge potential here for the production of hydrogen, the fuel of the future.

  • Phil

    Great progress, and the future IS hydrogen be it water, or gaseous fuel.

    Bacteria and new strains thereof do have incredible capacity for damage if they manage to survive and grow in the real world. I really hope they do their homework on containment and outbreak survivability with these things.

    The idea of hydrogen producing algae spreading like a carpet over the oceans is disturbing.

  • greenorbz

    Hydrogen is known to be the most common element in the entire universe. It is not a source of energy, it is only a carrier. It is available in abundance but not in its pure form. It is a part of other compounds like fossil fuels and water.

    At a commercial level, hydrogen is tapped in its purest form from the fossil fuels. It is produced currently through reforming steam from the natural gas. The production of hydrogen from fossil fuels or even electrolysis results in emission of harmful greenhouses that would further have an impact on the global warming. Hence, in order to make energy from hydrogen fully renewable, the production of this fuel should also be from renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.

  • NotGreeenzorb

    Hey, Greenorbz

    2 H2 + O2 –> 2 H20 + Heat (otherwise known as steam) We use steam to run turbines. Where does the greenhouse gas come in?

  • Phil

    NotGreenorbz:

    I think Greenornz is referring to the generation of electricity for electrolysis by fossil fuel plants.

    I would modify that somewhat so that if we ever managed to make the electrolysis so efficient that we produced more hydrogen energy at the same time reducing fossil fuel inputs that would be a big step toward the mythical Hydrogen economy.

  • J

    What about the electricity required to get the hydrogen?


Hydrogen-Powered Tram Developed in China

hydrogen-tram

In an effort to reduce China’s harmful and plentiful greenhouse gas emissions, Chinese company Sifang (a subsidiary of China South Rail Corporation) has developed the world’s first hydrogen powered tram.

Hydrogen Generation & Storage Made Easy with Nano-Technology

Hydrogen Generation & Storage Made Easy with Nano-Technology

Fuels like gasoline, based on hydrocarbon, create pollution and carbon footprint. Hydrogen has been claimed to be a good alternative to replace fossil fuel since the 1970s. But hydrogen’s

Ramanathan’s Work on Solid-Oxide Fuel Cells

Ramanathan’s Work on Solid-Oxide Fuel Cells

A team of researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences that is headed by Sriram Ramanathan is working on developing fuel cells. If Ramanathan is to

New Process to Boost Hydrogen Fuel Cell Usage

New Process to Boost Hydrogen Fuel Cell Usage

A new process is being tested by chemical engineers of Purdue University to get high hydrogen production at fuel-cell temperature-level with no catalyst use. This is full of promise

New Platinum Could Mean Cheaper, More Efficient Fuel Cells

New Platinum Could Mean Cheaper, More Efficient Fuel Cells

Fuel cells are clean and green cells. They work without polluting the environment. Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that transform the chemical energy of a fuel into electricity generating

Honda Solar Hydrogen Station Introduced to Green Car Market

Honda Solar Hydrogen Station Introduced to Green Car Market

Honda finally unveiled their new solar hydrogen solar station and all signs point to a dramatic success. The station is smaller than previous models and enables an electric car

The East Coast is About to Become the Hydrogen Highway

The East Coast is About to Become the Hydrogen Highway

Everyone is excited about hydrogen cars, but there is always the challenge of how they are going to fill up. Most cars are restricted by the distance that they

New Hydrogen Storage Method

New Hydrogen Storage Method

Hydrogen is an extremely environment friendly fuel as when it burns it releases only water vapor into the atmosphere, but the problem is that it is not easy to