Academic journal article The Science Teacher

High-Temperature Hydrogen

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

High-Temperature Hydrogen

Article excerpt

In the quest to make hydrogen a clean alternative fuel source, researchers have been stymied about how to create usable hydrogen that is clean and sustainable without relying on an intensive, high-energy process that outweighs the benefits of not using petroleum to power vehicles.

New findings from a team of researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT Knoxville), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, however, show that photosynthesis--the process by which plants regenerate using energy from the Sun--may function as that clean, sustainable source of hydrogen.

The team, led by Barry Bruce, a professor of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology at UT Knoxville, found that the inner machinery of photosynthesis can be isolated from certain algae and--when coupled with a platinum catalyst--is able to produce a steady supply of hydrogen when exposed to light. The findings are outlined in Nature Nanotechnology.

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Bruce, who serves as the associate director for UT Knoxville's Sustainable Energy and Education Research Center, notes that we already get most of our energy from photosynthesis, albeit indirectly. The fossil fuels of today were once (millions of years ago) energy-rich plant matter whose growth also was supported by the Sun through the process of photosynthesis. There have been efforts to shorten this process, namely through the creation of biomass fuels that harvest plants and convert their hydrocarbons into ethanol or biodiesel. …

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