April 24, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Bacterial Hydrogen Fuel Cell May Yield Cleaner World

Scientists at Penn State are working on a new, improved fuel cell.  Its secret?  Bacteria that can be coaxed with a little electricity to produce “four times as much hydrogen directly out of biomass than can be generated typically by fermentation alone.”  Will you someday be able to harness hydrogen from organic waste to drive your car?  Their new electrically-assisted microbial fuel cell can theoretically be used to “obtain high yields of hydrogen from any biodegradable, dissolved, organic matter – human, agricultural or industrial wastewater, for example – and simultaneously clean the wastewater.”

If this dream ever comes true, be thankful for those little germs.  The lot of them often gets a bad rap from the few that went delinquent.  Notice how the scientists didn’t build nano-scale hydrogen factories from scratch.  They had to harness the skill of molecular machines in bacteria to get this promising result.

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Categories: Cell Biology

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