Hydrogen breakthrough?

August 11, 2011

The vision of a hydrogen-based economy has been a tantalizing dream for over a decade.   The promise of a clean, cheap and plentiful fuel – domestically available and producing only water vapor as an exhaust – seems too good to be true.  And, alas, it has been. Although in theory hydrogen provides an easy way to convert electrical energy into chemical energy – and thus to make it both storable and transportable – it has not proven easy to do so cheaply.  However, a new process using plentiful and cheap iron and nickel might provide the long sought breakthrough, according to research published in the journal Science today.  Subscription is required for the article, which is a technical article and not intended for the general public.  However, BBC News has a very good overview:

Fuel cells need a catalyst to speed up the chemical reactions that change hydrogen into water and electricity. Platinum is very good at this but it is famously expensive and rare.

Some microbes, though, have known for a billion years how to make enzymes that can do the job using cheap and abundant nickel and iron.

These natural enzymes are unfortunately difficult to obtain and do not do so well outside the microbe.

Now researchers have managed to make a synthetic, toughened-up version.

Real-world viability

So far, they have looked at just one step in the complex reaction, where two hydrogen atoms taken from water are snapped together to make hydrogen gas.

But their new synthetic enzyme is performing surprisingly well, in fact it’s 10 times faster than the natural one, making 100,000 molecules of hydrogen gas every second.

As always, read the whole thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: