Hydrogen Bacteria: One Solution To Rising Gas Costs?

Why is hydrogen such an attractive alternative fuel for the future?


According to news sources, the main advantage to hydrogen lies plainly in its ubiquitous supply. It is reusable, efficient and eco-friendly, three factors of utmost importance in this age of green-consciousness and carbon footprint reduction. When hydrogen burns, no greenhouse gases are produced, only ordinary water. The fact that hydrogen is also explosive and requires special engines is however, a challenging force of the future that needs to be reckoned with.

How does a Russian born biologist fit into this hydrogen-petrol equation?

Biology Professor Sergey Markov from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee has discovered a way to produce hydrogen fuel for vehicles by using photosynthetic bacteria. He said:

“This is very attractive for industrial application because photosynthetic bacteria can produce hydrogen using solar light and water and we have plenty of solar light and water around.”

The kind of purple bacteria utilized are known Rubrivivax gelatinosusare. They grow mostly in mud, ponds and lakes. Markov is now building a second prototype pilot scale bioreactor that mixes the bacteria with carbon monoxide and water, producing hydrogen. His first bioreactor has proven to be too small to be effective for mass hydrogen production. According to news sources, he has received a grant from the US Department of Energy, but claims more financial support is still needed. Markov said of his experiment with bacteria:

“Certain purple bacteria, which usually grow in the mud of various ponds and lakes have the ability to convert water and carbon monoxide into hydrogen gas. The problem was how to effectively supply each bacterial cell in a liquid bacterial soup with gaseous carbon monoxide.”

What does the future hold for an alternative fuel source?

There seems much promise for this new scientific endeavor but the fact that carbon monoxide is not readily available could put a dent in the progress of this innovative project. Markov claims that using a special thermo-chemical process as well as other bacteria could also produce carbon monoxide.

Time will tell.

In the meantime, take your turn at the pump and complain.