Scientists have found a new species of bacterium which cleans up the environment and produces hydrogen, an element which may in the future reduce the world’s dependency on oil.
The bacterium Halanaerobium hydrogeninformans was discovered in Soap Lake Washington by a team of researchers from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
It can “produce hydrogen under saline and alkaline conditions in amounts that rival genetically modified organisms,” said head researcher Dr. Melanie Mormile.
Mormile, a microbial ecology of extreme environments expert, found the Bacterium’s capability by accident when she was searching for bacteria that could aid in the task of cleaning up the environment, especially the extremophiles which live in Soap Lake.
An extremophile is a kind of microorganism which lives in extreme temperature, acidity, alkalinity or chemically concentrated environments.
She was focused on Halanaerobium hydrogeninformans because it has the metabolic capability to live under conditions which are usually prevalent in contaminated waste sites.
Mormile and her team discovered that the new species of bacterium is capable of producing hydrogen and 1, 3-propanediol in environments with high pH and salinity conditions.
“It would be great if we got liters and liters of production of hydrogen,” Mormile said. “However, we have not been able to scale up yet.”
Currently the infrastructure isn’t present for gasoline to be replaced by hydrogen as an energy source. But in the future it may become a solution to world’s problem of ever dwindling fossil-fuels.
The bacterium’s other product 1, 3-propenediol, an organic compound, can be used in industrial products such as coatings, laminates, adhesives and composites or even as a solvent or antifreeze.
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