Researchers devise a new way of producing hydrogen fuel | 9/4/2017 | Staff
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A U.S.-based team of researchers including MIPT scientists has assembled a nanoscale biological structure capable of producing hydrogen from water using light. They inserted a photosensitive protein into nanodiscs—circular fragments of cell membrane composed of a lipid bilayer—and enhanced the resulting structure with particles of titanium dioxide, a photocatalyst. The research findings were published in the journal ACS Nano.

Professor Vladimir Chupin, who heads the Laboratory of the Chemistry and Physics of Lipids at MIPT's Research Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases, says, "Our laboratories working with membrane proteins, in particular with nanodiscs, are mostly focused on biophysical and medical issues. However, the recent joint study with our U.S. colleagues shows that by bringing together biological and technical materials, nanodiscs can be used to obtain hydrogen fuel."

Hydrogen - Energy - Sources - Product - Water

Hydrogen is one of the cleanest alternative energy sources. When it burns, the only product formed is water vapor. Furthermore, at 45 percent or more, the efficiency of hydrogen fuel is much greater compared with less than 35 percent for gasoline or diesel fuel. Although major automobile manufacturers, such as Toyota, Honda, and BMW, are already producing hydrogen-powered cars, their numbers are modest. Hydrogen is still costly to obtain, largely due to the high power consumption involved. For this reason, researchers are seeking ways of generating this fuel by tapping into other energy sources.

Hydrogen can be produced from water using solar power. The process requires special compounds called photocatalysts. Titanium dioxide is one of the most widely used. It is hardly the most effective photocatalyst, though, so researchers go to great lengths to boost its performance by grinding it to nanosize or adding impurities. To that end, the scientists at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, U.S., have turned to biology, assembling a nanostructure made of titanium dioxide and a membrane protein called...
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