In a breakthrough that could be a game-changer for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, researchers at Virginia Tech have discovered a way to extract large amounts of hydrogen from any plant. Current methods of producing hydrogen are expensive and they generate greenhouse gases. If this new method of hydrogen extraction proves to be as successful as initial findings suggest, the process could be commercialized and widely adopted within three years.
To extract hydrogen, the Virginia Tech team combined a special cocktail of enzymes with polyphosphate and xylose — a simple sugar that’s found in every plant. When combined, the enzymes help to release a high volume of hydrogen from xylose. The process is much more efficient and eco-friendly than conventional methods, and the implications could be huge for the renewable energy sector. Although these findings are still preliminary, this new hydrogen extraction technique could find its way to the marketplace within three years.
“Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Y.H. Percival Zhang, the lead author of the study. “The potential for profit and environmental benefits are why so many automobile, oil, and energy companies are working on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the transportation of the future,” he added. “Many people believe we will enter the hydrogen economy soon, with a market capacity of at least $1 trillion in the United States alone.”