VaTech, D.O.E, Russians, collaborators study rare microorganism that produces hydrogen
An ancient organism from the pit of a collapsed volcano may hold the key to tomorrow's hydrogen economy. Scientists from across the world have formed a team to unlock the process refined by a billions-year old archaea. The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute will expedite the research by sequencing the hydrogen-producing organism for comparative genomics.
When members of the Russian Academy of Sciences isolated a rare archaeal microorganism that breaks down cellulose and produces hydrogen, Biswarup Mukhopadhyay, an assistant professor with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, saw an opportunity to open a door for development of a cellulose-based high-temperature hydrogen production process. “Hydrogen can be easily converted to electrical and mechanical energy without any production of carbon dioxide,” said Mukhopadhyay, whose lab specializes in very high temperature or hyperthermophilic archaea and in energy production.
Promising research, indeed. VT's Mukhopadhyay said, “This is just the beginning of an exploration of hitherto unknown processes with potential to advance energy production and having a team will make it more innovative, productive and fun.”