Hydrogen is the most widespread element in the Universe, and also the simplest one. It exists in planets, stars, galaxies, plants, animals, water, fire, and even in ourselves. Common sense tells us that science should be able to create this element out of thin air, but the laws of physics are way more complicated than that.
The harsh truth is that scientists cannot create even one single atom out of nothing, regardless of the element it belongs to. However, science is always evolving, and one recent work is standing out firmly.
Tiny droplet-based microbial factories created for producing hydrogen
Instead of producing oxygen, the new invention creates hydrogen while being exposed to daylight in the air. Sugary droplets were used in combination with living algal cells for generating the hydrogen. The new scientific work belongs to an international research team from the University of Bristol and Harbin Institute of Technology in China.
The researchers trapped about ten thousand algal cells in each droplet, and they were then crammed together using osmotic compression. Oxygen levels began to switch on special enzymes called hydrogenases that hijacked the normal photosynthetic pathway for produce hydrogen. The trigger was to bury the cells inside the droplets. Therefore, a quarter of a million microbial factories could be prepared in only one millilitre of water.
Professor Stephen Mann, who is Co-Director of the Max Planck Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology, declared:
Using simple droplets as vectors for controlling algal cell organization and photosynthesis in synthetic micro-spaces offers a potentially environmentally benign approach to hydrogen production that we hope to develop in future work.
Scientists are optimistic that hydrogen could also be a fuel that is climate-neutral, and it can be used in the future as an efficient source of energy.
The new research was published in Nature Communications.