The Xylose, the second most prevalent sugar in plants is at the origin of a discovery that could revolutionize the automotive industry. American researchers have managed to turn it into hydrogen with a process that would allow large quantities at a low cost.
A team of researchers at Virginia Tech have discovered a way to extract large amounts of hydrogen from plants, a breakthrough that has the potential to provide a new source of energy to the world.
“Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Y.H. Percival Zhang biology specialist at Virginia Tech in a press release.
Professor Zhang and his team were able to use xylose, the second most abundant sugar in plants to produce large quantities of hydrogen with a method that can use any source of biomass.
This new eco-friendly method to produce hydrogen
using renewable natural resources, generates almost no emissions. The discovery is particularly interesting as the two conventional methods for producing hydrogen are either highly polluting (refining natural gas) or very expensive (electrolysis of water), which limits the development of the famous fuel-cell
For seven years, Zhang's team focused its research on non-traditional ways to produce hydrogen at an acceptable cost, in particular by testing combinations of enzymes having properties of transforming sugar in H2.
An enzyme allows the breaktrhough
The team gets high purity hydrogen from the reaction at 50°C and normal atmospheric pressure. Biocatalysts used to release hydrogen are a group of enzymes artificially isolated from various micro-organisms that grow at high temperatures.
The current market for hydrogen is about $ 100 billion, mainly produced from natural gas an expensive method that generates a large amount of carbon dioxide. The industrialization of Prof. Zhang’s process could allow hydrogen vehicle to (finally) become viable and grow rapidly.
// Article par Jérémi Michaux