Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Research Advances Understanding Of How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made

Date:
October 6, 2005
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Oxygen may be necessary for life, but it sure gets in the way of making hydrogen fuel cheaply and abundantly from a family of enzymes present in many microorganisms. Blocking oxygen's path to an enzyme's production machinery could lead to a renewable energy source that would generate only water as its waste product.

Schematic diagram of hydrogen-oxygen reaction taking place in hydrogenase CpI. (Graphic courtesy of Jordi Cohen)

Related Articles


Researchers at the Beckman Institute for AdvancedScience and Technology at the University of Illinois atUrbana-Champaign have opened a window by way of computer simulationthat lets them see how and where hydrogen and oxygen travel to reachand exit an enzyme’s catalyst site – the H cluster – where the hydrogenis converted into energy.

The Illinois scientists and threecolleagues from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden,Colo., detailed their findings in the September issue of the journalStructure. What they found could help solve a long-standing economicsproblem. Because oxygen permanently binds to hydrogen in the H cluster,the production of hydrogen gas is halted. As a result, the supply isshort-lived.

Numerous microorganisms have enzymes known as hydrogenases that simply use sunlight and water to generate hydrogen-based energy.

“Understandinghow oxygen reaches the active site will provide insight into howhydrogenase’s oxygen tolerance can be increased through proteinengineering, and, in turn, make hydrogenase an economical source ofhydrogen fuel,” said Klaus Schulten, Swanlund Professor of Physics atIllinois and leader of the Beckman’s Theoretical Biophysics Group.

Usingcomputer modeling developed in Schulten’s lab – Nanoscale MolecularDynamics (NAMD) and Visual Molecular Dynamics (VMD) – physics doctoralstudent Jordi Cohen created an all-atom simulation model based on thecrystal structure of hydrogenase CpI from Clostridium pasteurianum.

Thismodel allowed Cohen to visualize and track how oxygen and hydrogentravel to the hydrogenase’s catalytic site, where the gases bind, andwhat routes the molecules take as they exit. Using a new computingconcept, he was able to describe gas diffusion through the protein andpredict accurately the diffusion paths typically taken.

“What wediscovered was surprising,” Schulten said. “Both hydrogen and oxygendiffuse through the protein rather quickly, yet, there are cleardifferences.”

Oxygen requires a bit more space compared with thelighter and smaller hydrogen, staying close to few well localizedfluctuating channels. The hydrogen gas traveled more freely. Becausethe protein is more porous to hydrogen than to oxygen, the hydrogendiffused through the oxygen pathways but also through entirely newpathways closed to oxygen, the researchers discovered.

Theresearchers concluded that it could be possible to close the oxygenpathways of hydrogenase through genetic modification of the proteinand, thereby, increase the tolerance of hydrogenases to oxygen withoutdisrupting the release of hydrogen gas.

Co-authors with Schultenand Cohen were Kwiseon Kim, Paul King and Michael Seibert, all of theNational Renewable Energy Laboratory. The National Institutes ofHealth, National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energyfunded the research.

NAMD is a parallel molecular dynamics codedesigned for high-performance simulation of large biomolecular systems.VMD is a molecular visualization program for displaying, animating andanalyzing large biomolecular systems using 3-D graphics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Research Advances Understanding Of How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051006082610.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2005, October 6). Research Advances Understanding Of How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051006082610.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Research Advances Understanding Of How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051006082610.htm (accessed November 29, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Magnetic Motors, Not Cables, Power This Elevator

Magnetic Motors, Not Cables, Power This Elevator

Newsy (Nov. 28, 2014) Imagine an elevator without cables. ThyssenKrupp has drafted an elevator concept that would cruise on linear magnetic motors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins