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Modified Enzyme May Bring Affordable Hydrogen Fuel One Step Closer

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A hydrogen fueled vehicle like this could be more popular soon.Hydrogen has high potential to fuel vehicles, but as pure hydrogen does not exist naturally, it must be derived from other compounds that contain hydrogen.

Researchers have been able to make headway on the journey towards taking hydrogen fuel from water, and now in a cost-effective way.

Hydrogen fueled cars have not been able to be realized fully. Methods to separate hydrogen and oxygen in water, like electrolysis, can be cost prohibitive and difficult to implement. (Electrolysis is when the hydrogen and oxygen gases are broken apart by an electric current.)

The journal Nature Chemistry recently included a paper that detailed the newly found method. The scientists created a biomaterial that can divide the two elements in water. Called P22-Hyd, it is a modified enzyme protected by a protein shell. Together, the material reacts and catalyzes the separation process, enabling hydrogen to form at a rate of 150 times more efficiency.

The reaction works the other way as well. The biomaterial can also combine the two gases of hydrogen and oxygen to create power. That process is how hydrogen fueled cars work. Hydrogen gas is mixed with oxygen, generating the electricity needed. This process creates water vapor as waste, which is much more preferable to fumes and greenhouse gases.

P22-Hyd makes the process more affordable as the materials currently used aren’t always sustainable. For example, the traditional process of hydrogen separation includes platinum, which is both rare and costly. Unlike platinum, P22-Hyd does not have to be mined and it’s biodegradable.

Beyond the creation of P22-Hyd, other research has been done in area of hydrogen to find ways to derive it from a source that is not water. Hydrogen has been produced successfully from biomass (corn waste), as an example. Using organic waste also increases the likelihood of hydrogen fueled cars becoming a more viable plausibility.

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