Researchers at Virginia Tech have succeeded in extracting sizable quantities of hydrogen gas from xylose, a common sugar found in most plants. They did this by creating a special cocktail of enzymes that combine with xylose and a polyphosphate under relatively low temperatures to release the gas. Unlike other common methods of hydrogen extraction, this one doesn’t release carbon dioxide, making it far more environmentally friendly. Also, because xylose is so common, any biomass can be used in production. The results of the research appear on the Web site of Angewandte Chemie, a chemistry journal.
What’s the Big Idea?
The ability to create large amounts of high-quality hydrogen cheaply, using renewable sources like biomass, would be an energy game-changer, says lead researcher Y.H. Percival Zhang. “The potential for profit and environmental benefits are why so many automobile, oil, and energy companies are working on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the transportation of the future.” Oak Ridge National Laboratory group leader Jonathan R. Mielenz says that the new process could be available commercially in as soon as three years.