I remember high school chemistry experiments where we used charged cathodes and anodes to break down water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. We would then light the hydrogen and think how cool it was that in burning the hydrogen we ended up with water vapour as the by-product. I find it interesting that those experiments are now being re-thought and made more efficient in an attempt to, for all intents and purposes, save our planet.
Well I found this interesting little article about an experiment in England at the University of Birmingham which had found an alternative version of the electolosis experiment. Instead of applying a current to separate hydrogen and oxygen in water, scientists fed waste chocolate and nougat to E.coli bacteria. No you don’t have to clean your glasses you read correctly. E.coli, a deadly bacteria associated with severe abdominal distress which left untreated leads to death.
Apparently this deadly little bug produces hydrogen as a by-product of it’s digestive process. The experiment entailed feeding the highly sugared waste from a Cadbury Schweppes candy production plant to the E.coli bacteria, and harnessing the hydrogen produced by the E.coli into a hydrogen fuel cell which was then used to power a small electric fan. For those of you who remember some of their high school chemistry, the glucose (sugar) molecule has the following structure.
Breaking down this molecule isn’t all that polluting now is it? And that’s 12 Hydrogen atoms per molecule. This could be a pretty efficient way of producing hydrogen for fuel cells. More technology ideas like this and we should be able to drop our oil dependence soon. Wouldn’t that be a relief?