U.K. researchers study sugary food waste

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted July 24, 2008 at 1:29 p.m. CST

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in Birmingham, England, are looking at whether an everyday bioprocess that occurs naturally might be harnessed to produce hydrogen on a commercial scale using sugary food waste as a feedstock.

According to a report entitled "Life's a gas… and it's hydrogen" published in the August 2008 issue of Microbiology Today, dark fermentation and photofermentation processes can be combined to generate hydrogen from sugary feedstocks.

Mark D. Redwood, a research fellow, and Lynne E. Macaskie, a professor of applied microbiology, at the Unit of Functional Bionanomaterials in the School of Biosciences at the university are conducting the research.

Redwood and Macaskie said the most significant challenge for producing hydrogen in this way on a commercial scale is to design a photobioreactor that is inexpensive and able to capture light from a large area and transmit the light into the photosynthetic culture.

If the process can be advanced, the researchers said the process might be used to produce hydrogen from crop residues.

The report can be found in the current issue of Microbiology Today at http://www.sgm.ac.uk/pubs/micro_today/current.cfm.