Jan 06, 2016 12:34 AM EST
Scientists may have found a cheap and clean method in developing a hydrogen biofuel by using a "virus shell." This virus shell creates a highly efficient and renewable material that can generate power from water.
The United States Department of Energy-backed research team was able to produce the nano-reactor by placing an altered form of an enzyme inside a virus' capsid. Capsids are those protective shells protecting the core of a virus.
The researchers used two genes from E. coli bacterium to produce hydrogenase. The hydrogenase is then inserted inside a protective capsid from another virus, bacteriophage P22. The hydrogenase also is found to be 150 times more efficient than its original state in the E. coli bacterium.
"Essentially we've taken a virus's ability to self-assemble myriad genetic building blocks and incorporated a very fragile and sensitive enzyme with the remarkable property of taking in protons and spitting out hydrogen gas," said Trevor Douglas, one of the researchers. He then added that the end result is a virus-like particle that behaves the same as material that catalyzes the production of hydrogen.
Douglas even added that this nano-reactor is comparable to a platinum except for the fact that it is renewable. The nano-reactor can be reproduced en masse in a room temperature using just a fermentation technology. The entire reactor is biodegradable, and the process is also green, making the virus nano-reactor a very sustainable high-end material.
The resulting nano-reactor breaks the chemical bond between water to form hydrogen and oxygen. It is also found out that the nano-reactor is able to combine hydrogen and oxygen rather efficiently to produce both water and energy.
"Incorporating this material into a solar-powered system is the next step," Douglas added. This material is described to have a numerous potential for clean and renewable energy applications that had been sought for too long in the scientific and environmentalist community.