Currently, hydrogen gas is produced in a very complex industrial process and bio-enzymes could be an alternative source of energy. This makes them more attractive to the environmentally friendly fuels market, according to the researchers. In response, scientists are looking for biologically synthesized hydrogen, which is far more efficient to produce than the current human-made process. That’s what chemistry professor and co-author Thomas Rauchfuss said.
Use bio-enzymes for industrial fuels
Bio enzymes, or so-called hydrogenases, are nature’s machines for producing and burning hydrogen gas. These enzymes come in two versions: iron-iron and nickel-iron, named after the elements that are responsible for the chemical reactions. So the new study focuses primarily on the first variety because it gets the job done faster, the researchers claim.
The team entered the study with a general understanding of the chemical makeup of the active sites within the enzyme. They hypothesized that the spots were made up of 10 parts: four molecules of carbon monoxide, two cyanide ions, two iron ions, and two groups of a sulfur-containing amino acid called cysteine.
The team also found that the enzyme’s engine was more like two identical groups of five chemicals. These were two carbon monoxide molecules, a cyanide ion, an iron ion, and a cysteine group. The groups thus form a firmly connected unit and the two units together make 10 parts for the motor. However, the analysis of the enzyme synthesized in the laboratory revealed one final surprise, said Rauchfuß. "Our recipe is incomplete. We now know that it takes 11 parts to create the active drive. We’re looking for that one last bit."
So the team members are not sure what kind of applications this new understanding of bio-enzymes will lead to. However, the research could provide a link that will be useful for other catalyst projects.
"The lesson from this study is that it is one thing to imagine using the real enzyme to make hydrogen gas, but it is far more powerful to understand your makeup well enough to reproduce it for use in the laboratory can", so Rauchfuss. Oregon Health and Science University researchers also contributed to this study.
You can find the article on the study here.