Scientists from the University of Sheffield, UK have demonstrated that some bacteria named Nostoc could be used to power our future hydrogen cars. Their research was published in the journal Bioinformatics, and it could have powerful green consequences for the environment.
The Nostoc bacteria, as well as all the living creatures on Earth, have a metabolism, which helps them self-sustain. The metabolism is a huge sequence of various complex chemical reactions which transform food into energy and waste.
Using computer models, the Sheffield researchers mapped the metabolism of Nostoc, and found it fixes nitrogen. Doing so, it releases hydrogen that can then be fed to a fuel cell, and used to power our stuff. Fixing nitrogen consumes a great amount of energy. The scientists didn’t explain exactcly how the Nostoc bacteria procures the energy it needs in order to produce the hydrogen. The computer system has been used to figure out the whole process.
The study leader, Dr. Guido Sanguinetti, from the University’s Department of Computer Science, said: “The research uncovered a previously unknown link between the energy machinery of the Nostoc bacterium and its core nitrogen metabolism. Further investigation of this pathway might lead to understanding and improvement of the hydrogen production mechanism of these bacteria. It will certainly be some time before a pool of bacteria powers your car, but this research is yet another small step towards sustainable fuels […] The next step for us will be further investigation into hydrogen production, as well as constructing more mathematical models capable of integrating various sources of biological data.”