'Wiring up' enzymes for producing hydrogen in fuel cells

November 19, 2007
'Wiring up' enzymes for producing hydrogen in fuel cells
Computer graphic representation of a single-walled carbon nanotube (elongated structure) Credit: Courtesy of Michael J. Heben, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Researchers in Colorado are reporting the first successful “wiring up” of hydrogenase enzymes. Those much-heralded proteins are envisioned as stars in a future hydrogen economy where they may serve as catalysts for hydrogen production and oxidation in fuel cells. Their report, describing a successful electrical connection between a carbon nanotube and hydrogenase, is scheduled for the Nov. issue of Nano Letters.

In the new study, Michael J. Heben, Paul W. King, and colleagues explain that bacterial enzymes called hydrogenases show promise as powerful catalysts for using hydrogen in fuel cells, which can produce electricity with virtually no pollution for motor vehicles, portable electronics, and other devices.

However, scientists report difficulty incorporating these enzymes into electrical devices because the enzymes do not form good electrical connections with fuel cell components. Currently, precious metals, such as platinum, are typically needed to perform this catalysis.

The researchers combined hydrogenase enzymes with carbon nanotubes, submicroscopic strands of pure carbon that are excellent electrical conductors. In laboratory studies, the researchers demonstrated that a good electrical connection was established using photoluminescence spectroscopy measurements.

These new “biohybrid” conjugates could reduce the cost of fuel cells by reducing or eliminating the need for platinum and other costly metal components, they say.

Source: American Chemical Society

Explore further: Way cheaper catalyst may lower fuel costs for hydrogen-powered cars

Related Stories

New energy source for future medical implants: sugar

June 13, 2012

MIT engineers have developed a fuel cell that runs on the same sugar that powers human cells: glucose. This glucose fuel cell could be used to drive highly efficient brain implants of the future, which could help paralyzed ...

Recommended for you

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...

New sensor sends electronic signal when estrogen is detected

November 24, 2015

Estrogen is a tiny molecule, but it can have big effects on humans and other animals. Estrogen is one of the main hormones that regulates the female reproductive system - it can be monitored to track human fertility and is ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.