BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – A very efficient biomaterial that can boost the formation of hydrogen by splitting H2O to make hydrogen and oxygen was created by scientists at Indiana University.

It was reported that it can be used for powering cheap and efficacious cars boosted by water. According to a report published in the journal Nature Chemistry, scientists modified an enzyme of a bacterial virus, Escherichia coli, in order to create the new material.

Results would appear to show that the biomaterial, called “P22-Hyd”, works 150 times better than the unaltered form of the enzyme. Another interesting thing is that it can be produced at room temperature (about 72.8 degrees Fahrenheit), in a simple fermentation process, explained the researchers in a press release.

An artist's rendering of P22-Hyd, a new biomaterial created by encapsulating a hydrogen-producing enzyme within a virus shell. Credit: IU Newsroom/Trevor Douglas
An artist’s rendering of P22-Hyd, a new biomaterial created by encapsulating a hydrogen-producing enzyme within a virus shell. Credit: IU Newsroom/Trevor Douglas

According to, from the U.S Department of Energy, scientists and researchers are investigating Hydrogen (H2) as a fuel for vehicles. It was explained that the chemical element can be used in fuel cells to power electric motors, while it is still environmentally friendly, and at the same time it could present a decrement of the dependence on imported oil.

Hydrogen can offer many benefits, since it can be produced domestically and it does not produce air pollutants or green gases which are harming for the environment. However, it can’t be obtained in many locations yet and fuel cell vehicles that run on hydrogen can be more expensive than traditional vehicles, as wrote Fueleconomy.

This new material developed at Indiana, is notably less expensive and more environmentally friendly to create when comparing it to other materials that have been used by researchers to produce fuel cells. It was explained that platinum, a precious metal, is used to catalyze (cause or accelerate a reaction by acting as a catalyst, according to Oxford Dictionaries) hydrogen as fuel for using it in expensive, high-tech cars.

“This material is comparable to platinum, except it’s truly renewable. You don’t need to mine it; you can create it at room temperature on a massive scale using fermentation technology; it’s biodegradable and It’s a very green process to make a very high-end sustainable material,” professor Douglas said.

It seems impressive that P22-Hyd can break the chemical bonds of water to create hydrogen and it also can be used in reverse to recombine hydrogen and oxygen to generate power, professor Douglas wrote. He added that no one had ever had a way to create a large enough amount of this hydrogenase despite its incredible potential for biofuel production.

Another bond of this material, that has more than two decades of development, is that it can be produced in huge amounts, like scientists remarked, while it can contribute to reduce the environment harming in the future. According to professor Douglas researchers from the study will try to incorporate P22-Hyd into a solar-powered system. The investigation was supported by the U.S Department of Energy.

“Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) have a significant potential to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, because they do not emit any greenhouse gases (GHGs) during vehicle operation. Their lifecycle GHG emissions depend on how the hydrogen fuel is made. A future mid-size car in the 2035-2045 time frame, powered by fuel cells and using hydrogen generated from natural gas, is projected to have lifecycle GHG emissions slightly lower than that for a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), powered by gasoline” wrote the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions from the U.S.

Last year Hyundai, the popular car maker from South Korea, presented an eco-friendly Fuel Cell vehicle that has a maximum range of 369 miles on a single tank of fuel, as the company wrote. It seems impressive that it takes just 3 minutes to charge and it produces zero emissions. Also, companies such as Toyota presented models that are in development and several others want to enter this new market.

Source: IU Bloomington Newsroom