Researchers extract hydrogen from biomass

By Staff | May 21, 2013

Researchers at Virginia Tech have developed a revolutionary way to extract large quantities of hydrogen from plant material. Y.H. Percival Shang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering, and his team have used xylose to produce large quantities of hydrogen from any source of biomass. The method releases no greenhouse gases and does not required costly or heavy metals.

Automobile manufacturers are aggressively trying to develop vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells, and Zhang’s discovery has opened the door to an inexpensive, renewable source of hydrogen. Obstacles to commercial biomass-to-hydrogen processes have historically included high processing costs and low yields. Zhang said he thinks he has found the answers to those problems through his use of a unique enzyme cocktail.

“Many people believe we will enter the hydrogen economy soon, with a market capacity of at least $1 trillion in the United States alone,” Zhang said.