German biologists develop safe and efficient hydrogen storage methods

Hydrogen is not easily stored and transported, which is a major obstacle to its use as a fuel. German biologists have discovered an enzyme that can be used as an efficient catalyst to convert hydrogen and carbon dioxide to formic acid, thus finding a safe and efficient hydrogen storage method. Related research was published in the recent "Science" magazine.

Hydrogen is an environmentally friendly future alternative energy source. To make it easier to handle hydrogen directly, people have been considering alternative methods, one of which is the use of carbon dioxide as an intermediate storage material. For example, formic acid is generated by the reaction of hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide through catalysis, and when necessary, the hydrogen is released from formic acid through an oxidation-reduction reaction. Compared to gaseous hydrogen, formic acid can be stored and transported like conventional fuels. It can release hydrogen directly where it is needed, such as in fuel cell reactions. Scientists estimate that hydrogen provided by 75 liters of liquid formic acid will allow fuel cell vehicles to travel about 400 kilometers. Formic acid can even be used directly for electronic devices, such as the energy supply of mobile phones.

Due to the high thermodynamic stability of carbon dioxide, the process of hydrogenation so far requires not only higher temperatures, pressures, but also chemical catalysts. Now, biologists Schwechmann and Volcker Muller of the University of Frankfurt, Germany, have discovered an enzyme in a bacterium called Acetobacter wuxiense that can act as a highly efficient biocatalyst for hydrogen. And carbon dioxide can react quickly under mild conditions.

Muller said: "This enzyme is very attractive because it makes efficient hydrogen storage and release possible." They used the bacteria as a whole, designed a biological hydrogen storage system, and applied for a patent. Since sodium is a decisive step in the production of bacteria for energy production, scientists can control the reaction by supplying nano-ions. In addition, through the alternative route design, carbon monoxide produced in the reaction can be recovered, which prevents the fuel cell from being damaged by carbon monoxide contamination. (Reporter Li Shan)

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