Team finds hydrogen production in extreme bacterium

February 1, 2015 by Joe Mccune
Protium, the most common isotope of hydrogen. Image: Wikipedia.

A researcher at Missouri University of Science and Technology has discovered a bacterium that can produce hydrogen, an element that one day could lessen the world's dependence on oil.

Dr. Melanie Mormile, professor of biological sciences at Missouri S&T, and her team discovered the "Halanaerobium hydrogeninformans" in Soap Lake, Washington. It can "produce hydrogen under saline and alkaline conditions in amounts that rival genetically modified organisms," Mormile says.

"Usually, I tend to study the overall microbial ecology of extreme environments, but this particular bacterium has caught my attention," Mormile says. "I intend to study this isolate in greater detail."

Mormile, an expert in the microbial ecology of extreme environments, wasn't searching for a bacterium that could produce hydrogen. Instead, she first became interested in bacteria that could help clean up the environment, especially looking at the extremophiles found in Soap Lake. An extremophile is a microorganism that lives in conditions of extreme temperature, acidity, alkalinity or chemical concentration. Living in such a hostile environment, "Halanaerobium hydrogeninformans" has metabolic capabilities under conditions that occur at some contaminated waste sites.

With "Halanaerobium hydrogeninformans," she expected to find an iron-reducing bacterium and describe a new species. What she found was a new species of bacterium that can produce hydrogen and 1, 3-propanediol under high pH and salinity conditions that might turn out to be valuable industrially. An organic compound, 1, 3-propenediol can be formulated into industrial products including composites, adhesives, laminates and coatings. It's also a solvent and can be used as antifreeze.

The infrastructure isn't in place now for hydrogen to replace gasoline as a fuel for planes, trains and automobiles. But if hydrogen becomes an alternative to gasoline, "Halanaerobium hydrogeniformans," mass-produced on an industrial scale, might be one solution – although it won't be a solution anytime soon.

"It would be great if we got liters and liters of production of ," Mormile says. "However, we have not been able to scale up yet."

In her first single-author article, Mormile's findings were featured in the Nov. 19 edition of Frontiers in Microbiology.

Mormile holds two patents for her work on the Soap Lake bacterium's biohydrogen formation under very alkaline and saline conditions. Also named on the patents are Dr. Judy Wall, Curators' Professor of Biochemistry and Joint Curators' Professor of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and her former lab members, Matthew Begemann and Dwayne Elias. A pending patent application, submitted along with Elias; Dr. Oliver Sitton, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at Missouri S&T; and Daniel Roush, then a master's student for Mormile, is for the conversion of glycerol to 1, 3-propanediol, also under hostile alkaline and saline conditions.

This patented and patent-pending technology is available for licensing through the Missouri S&T Center for Technology Transfer and Economic Development.

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More information: Frontiers in Microbiology,

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2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2015
Hybridisation with Stanford's Ethanol (from just water & Co2 - April month's finding) making bacteria might be the Key to Energy Independence.
Also, Read April 2013 articles on Diesel produced from E.Coli. These are the areas where Govts should step in because they can take losses & speed it all up unlike the private sector looking for IMMEDIATE profits!
1 / 5 (6) Feb 01, 2015
So, Read article for her dt: Sep 12, 2012...Exactly Same Information!
Important findings are unnecessarily allowed to brew for decades in the garages! They almost never see the light of the day. So much for Mankind's interest in Improvisation. Destructive gods & religions...I MEAN ALL OF THEM...are ruling the Human Brain since who knows when?
Certainly for Millennia, of course....but hopefully, not for MILLIONS of years, I GUESS!
DINOSAURS Lived what is it 160 Million Years Ago & PERISHED 60 Million Years Ago.
Probably, IDIOT Gods Removed them for NOT OFFERING Daily Prayers. So, many Expel GAS when they BEND!
2 / 5 (8) Feb 01, 2015
Some naturally occurring petroleum may be abiotic in nature.

One thing is an absolute certainty: Peak Oil is a myth, brought to you by the same Malthusian malcontents as brought us AGW.

The climate changes.
5 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2015
Betterexists feel the hairs on the back of your neck squirming? That's all the worlds whackjobs focusing on you now! Be vigilant my friend.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
5 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2015
Shut up shootist, the Saudis have no intention of reducing production and demand is only going to drop as time goes on and better things than burning fossils come about.
There's more to building a country than hoarding oil, and if you don't identify the waves of the future, you can't ride them.
1 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2015
CHEAP Hydrogen production from simple seawater acidification.


Whydening Gyre
4 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2015
Some naturally occurring petroleum may be abiotic in nature.

By what process?

Btw, you produce hydrogen sulfide in your digestive system. Rotting eggs do it too. Separate the sulfide off and what do you have? Crap, separate hydrogen from methane and what do you have? FOUR hydrogen atoms (ch4)...
not rated yet Feb 01, 2015
This is never going to be able to compete with generator that seems to be the ultimate way to make hydrogen.
3 / 5 (2) Feb 01, 2015
14- 14 Common everybody; there are things more interresting then KP at half time...
5 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2015
Some naturally occurring petroleum may be abiotic in nature.

One thing is an absolute certainty: Peak Oil is a myth, brought to you by the same Malthusian malcontents as brought us AGW.

The climate changes.

Another unasked-for peek into the perverse inner workings of your mind. You reject the predominate view of science on AGW, yet you embrace fringe abiogenic crackpottery? As it conveniently supports beliefs you desperately want the rest of us to accept, I guess that's not surprising.

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