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Title Egg whites could power a clean energy future
Source Other
Date 2018-03-09 PM 4:58:06 Hit 27
Egg whites — they’re not just (a cholesterol-free) breakfast anymore. A Japanese researcher has found a way to use molecules from a protein-based chemical found in egg whites to generate hydrogen more efficiently, putting scientists a step closer to producing hydrogen from water without using fossils fuels and raising the possibility that hydrogen could become a clean, carbon-free source of energy. Currently, most hydrogen is produced by processes that emit planet-warming greenhouse gases.
“Hydrogen is an extremely environmentally friendly energy, but it is still generated from fossil fuels in industrial processes, and greenhouse gas emissions are unavoidable,” said Hiroyasu Tabe, a research associate at Osaka City University’s graduate school of engineering. “Our method generates hydrogen using solar energy, without fossil fuels.”
Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element on earth, but it typically does not exist by itself in nature and must be generated from substances that contain it, such as water and fossil fuels, which hold large amounts of hydrogen.
Developing an efficient way to mass produce hydrogen from water alone could point to an inexpensive and clean fuel, without creating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions.
Hydrogen in fuel cells generates power using a chemical reaction rather than combustion, producing only water and heat as byproducts. It can be used in cars, in houses, for portable power, and in numerous other applications. Therefore, hydrogen produced from a sustainable source could produce a carbon-free fuel.
But the process of extracting hydrogen from water is difficult and complicated, relying on the use of a catalyst able to control otherwise randomly moving molecules during production. “The conversion of water molecules includes special and difficult chemical reactions,” Tabe said. “A large amount of energy provided by sunlight and molecular-sized ‘traffic control’ are necessary for efficient catalysis.”
Pure proteins produced by bacteria can perform this function, but making them requires special lab equipment, Tabe said. “Chicken eggs, however, are well-known vessels of protein-based chemicals,” he said. “Our catalyst can produce hydrogen from water, which is a ubiquitous compound all over the world.”
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