Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Making hydrogen cheaply by imitating bacteria? Unique chemistry in hydrogen catalysts revealed

Date:
October 24, 2013
Source:
University of California - Davis
Summary:
Making hydrogen easily and cheaply is a dream goal for clean, sustainable energy. Bacteria have been doing exactly that for billions of years, and now chemists are revealing how they do it, and perhaps opening ways to imitate them.

This hydrogen-generating cluster of iron (brown) and sulfur (yellow) atoms, with side groups of carbon monoxide (gray/red) and cyanide (gray/blue), could be a key to future fuel sources.
Credit: Protein Data Bank/courtesy graphic

Making hydrogen easily and cheaply is a dream goal for clean, sustainable energy. Bacteria have been doing exactly that for billions of years, and now chemists at the University of California, Davis, and Stanford University are revealing how they do it, and perhaps opening ways to imitate them.

Related Articles


A study published Oct. 25 in the journal Science describes a key step in assembling the hydrogen-generating catalyst.

"It's pretty interesting that bacteria can do this," said David Britt, professor of chemistry at UC Davis and co-author on the paper. "We want to know how nature builds these catalysts -- from a chemist's perspective, these are really strange things."

The bacterial catalysts are based on precisely organized clusters of iron and sulfur atoms, with side groups of cyanide and carbon monoxide. Those molecules are highly toxic unless properly controlled, Britt noted.

The cyanide and carbon monoxide groups were known to come from the amino acid tyrosine, Britt said. Jon Kuchenreuther, a postdoctoral researcher in Britt's laboratory, used a technique called electron paramagnetic resonance to study the structure of the intermediate steps.

They found a series of chemical reactions involving a type of highly reactive enzyme called a radical SAM enzyme. The tyrosine is attached to a cluster of four iron atoms and four sulfur atoms, then cut loose leaving the cyanide and carbon monoxide groups behind.

"People think of radicals as dangerous, but this enzyme directs the radical chemistry, along with the production of normally poisonous CO and CN, along safe and productive pathways," Britt said.

Kuchenreuther, Britt and colleagues also used another technique, Fourier Transform Infrared to study how the iron-cyanide-carbon monoxide complex is formed. That work will be published separately.

"Together, these results show how to make this interesting two-cluster enzyme," Britt said. "This is unique, new chemistry."

Britt's laboratory houses the California Electron Paramagnetic Resonance center (CalEPR), the largest center of its kind on the west coast.

Other authors on the paper are: at UC Davis, postdoctoral researchers William Myers and Troy Stich, project scientist Simon George and graduate student Yaser NejatyJahromy; and at Stanford University, James Swartz, professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering. The work was supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. M. Kuchenreuther, W. K. Myers, T. A. Stich, S. J. George, Y. NejatyJahromy, J. R. Swartz, R. D. Britt. A Radical Intermediate in Tyrosine Scission to the CO and CN- Ligands of FeFe Hydrogenase. Science, 2013; 342 (6157): 472 DOI: 10.1126/science.1241859

Cite This Page:

University of California - Davis. "Making hydrogen cheaply by imitating bacteria? Unique chemistry in hydrogen catalysts revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024143311.htm>.
University of California - Davis. (2013, October 24). Making hydrogen cheaply by imitating bacteria? Unique chemistry in hydrogen catalysts revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024143311.htm
University of California - Davis. "Making hydrogen cheaply by imitating bacteria? Unique chemistry in hydrogen catalysts revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024143311.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) With no immediate prospect of sanctions relief for Iran, and no solid progress in negotiations with the West over the country's nuclear programme, Ciara Lee asks why talks have still not produced results and what a resolution would mean for both parties. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flying Enthusiast Converts Real-Life Aircraft Cockpit Into Simulator

Flying Enthusiast Converts Real-Life Aircraft Cockpit Into Simulator

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) A virtual flying enthusiast converts parts of a written-off Airbus aircraft into a working flight simulator in his northern Slovenian home. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Microsoft has robotic security guards working at its Silicon Valley Campus. 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