Long touted as the magic bullet for a renewable-powered economy, hydrogen may finally be coming into its own as an energy storage currency. Recently, Canadian researchers have said they have developed catalysts that could vastly increase the viability of hydrogen production by electrolysis.
And now comes news from a Virginia Tech research team suggesting a new enzyme combination will allow hydrogen to be produced from plant matter in a way that “releases almost no greenhouse gases and does not require costly or heavy metals.”
YH Percival 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.
Jonathan Mielenz, group leader of the bioscience and technology biosciences division at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said this discovery has the potential to have a major impact on alternative energy production. “The key to this exciting development is that Zhang is using the second most prevalent sugar in plants to produce this hydrogen,” he said.
“This amounts to a significant additional benefit to hydrogen production and it reduces the overall cost of producing hydrogen from biomass.”
This hydrogen could of course be used at the point of production or stored for later use, either through burning directly or in fuel cells.