U.S. researchers have used a combination of enzymes that consume cellulose from non-food products to produce a high-quality hydrogen gas, a potential breakthrough in efforts to use biofuels to power hydrogen fuel cells. Scientists at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Georgia combined 14 enzymes, a coenzyme, materials from nonfood sources, and heated water to produce a hydrogen gas pure enough to power a fuel cell. The researchers say the process generates the highest hydrogen yield reported from cellulosic materials.
While researchers used wood chips in their experiments, they say agricultural waste or switchgrass could also be employed. “Using cellulose instead of starch expands the renewable resource for producing hydrogen to include biomass,” said Jonathan Mielenz at the Oak Ridge Laboratory. Meanwhile, the Australian airline Qantas this month is expected to announce plans to build the world’s second commercial-scale power plant to produce green jet fuel using food and household waste.