Researchers harness nature to produce the fuel of the future

January 30, 2013 by Cather­ine Zan­donella

Hydrogen has tremendous potential as an eco-friendly fuel, but it is expensive to produce. Now researchers at Princeton University and Rutgers University have moved a step closer to harnessing nature to produce hydrogen for us.

The team, led by Princeton chemistry professor Annabella Selloni, takes inspiration from bacteria that make hydrogen from water using enzymes called di-iron hydrogenases. Selloni's team uses computer models to figure out how to incorporate the magic of these enzymes into the design of practical synthetic catalysts that humans can use to produce hydrogen from water.

In this latest paper, Selloni and co-authors present a solution to an issue that has dogged the field: the catalysts designed so far are susceptible to poisoning by the oxygen present during the reaction. By making changes to the catalyst to improve the stability of the structure in water, the researchers found that they had also created a catalyst that is tolerant to oxygen without sacrificing efficiency. What is more, their artificial catalyst could be made from abundant and cheap components, such as iron, indicating that the could be a cost-effective way of .

Selloni and her team conducted their research in silico—that is, using computer modeling. The goal is to learn enough about how these catalysts work to someday create working catalysts that can make vast quantities of inexpensive hydrogen for use in vehicles and .

Explore further: Cheap hydrogen fuel from seawater may be a step closer

More information: Sit, Patrick H.-L., Roberto Car, Morrel H. Cohen, and Annabella Selloni. Oxygen tolerance of an in silico-designed bioinspired hydrogen-evolving catalyst in water. PNAS 2013; published ahead of print January 22, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1215149110

Related Stories

Cheap hydrogen fuel from seawater may be a step closer

April 29, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new catalyst has been developed to generate hydrogen from water cheaply, but the research was originally intended to make molecules that behaved like magnets. Hydrogen is a clean power source currently ...

A chance discovery may revolutionize hydrogen production

April 14, 2011

Producing hydrogen in a sustainable way is a challenge and production cost is too high. A team led by EPFL Professor Xile Hu has discovered that a molybdenum based catalyst is produced at room temperature, inexpensive and ...

Recommended for you

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

Findings illuminate animal evolution in protein function

July 27, 2015

Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond researchers recently teamed up to explore the inner workings of cells and shed light on the 400–600 million years of evolution between humans and early animals ...

0 comments

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.