Hydrogen Fuel via E. Coli

In a possible breakthrough, a research team from Texas A&M University has modified certain genes in E. coli to make the bacteria capable of producing hydrogen—possibly enough to create the energy to power homes and vehicles in the future. Team leader, Thomas Wood, professor of chemical engineering, spearheaded an effort to delete six of the 5,000 genes from E. coli’s DNA structure, thus enhancing the bacteria’s glucose-conversion abilities. By consuming sugar, the new strain of E. coli is able to generate hydrogen. The bacteria can produce 140 times more hydrogen than is created in naturally occurring processes. The Scientific team plans to amplify this process to an even higher degree.

The bacteria will feed on sugar which comes from a wide variety of biofuels. “A lot of people are working on converting something that you grow into some kind of sugar. We want to take that sugar and make it into hydrogen,” explained Wood. ” We’re going to get some form of sugar-like molecule and use the bacteria to convert that into hydrogen.”

Not only is this process organic, but it could end up being significantly less expensive than the conventional technique of making hydrogen by splitting water. Capturing hydrogen from E. Coli can be done cheaply, because the gas emerges naturally right out of the bacteria. “You just catch the gas as it comes out of the glass. That’s it. You have pure hydrogen.” Another advantage of this process is that hydrogen can be produced on site. This would eliminate the logistical issues of having to transport the gas to points of distribution.

The key to making this process viable for future applications is high efficiency. Wood explained that the current chemistry requires roughly 175 pounds of sugar per day to produce enough hydrogen to power a home for a single day. His goal is to reduce that number to just 17 pounds.

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  • Chip

    This process sounds like it can possibly utilize an existing, or converted, septic tank be used to achieve the same ultimate goal. What do you think?

  • alibabble


  • Connor

    Crazy Cool!

  • Razorback

    Why choose E Coli? There are many not harmful bacteria out there. What if “E Coli fuel tank” leak or damaged in car accident and it will cause health issue.

  • Filipe

    The major problem still remains, it is necessary organic matter (sugar, like glucose) to convert to hydrogen. The main source of that sugar is food. And we know what is happening now with the prices of food. They are climbing and puting pressure on people with few resources. Do we really prefer to feed our cars instead of people?

  • butch

    Sugar is a great way to go for being able to basically fuel any type of renewing resource, the only problem i see is the amount and are we really going to use corn syrup to fuel our cars? It wouldn’t be far from what the corn syrup people would want.

  • Rob D

    The biggest probem with many of the alternatives that use biomas as the source of energy is that the more acreage needed to produce the biomas, the less undisturbed land (rainforest, etc) we will have. Consequently, many species may become endangered or even extinct. This deforestation may actually be worse than the carbon dioxide currently produced by using petroleum and coal. We are already seeing this in Brazil where the rainforests are being eaten up in order to produce more soybeans and other crops because of the amount of crops in the US being used to create biofuels.

  • Ding Dong

    It will one hack of a nut job mechanic who will be interested or excited about working on this car.

  • Daniel K

    what about food waste products? after all how much food is “chucked” as it’s past its spoil date? I doubt the bacteria care.

  • rudolf

    The main resource of all the energy
    comin down to earth is a close star ,we call it the sun..
    Using that energy as quickly as possible, is the most
    effective way. Not using it to grow stuff,that can be
    used as a ‘fuel’ to produce H2.
    As soon sun’s energy is transformed to current,the better.

    I think we have all to focus on that..

  • moishe k

    no e coli in car only in powerstation

  • cc

    I agree with you. Any break through is nice, but when they find a way to use waste (which is plentiful), that’s when I will get really excited. The point of living green is to save the planet. Having to cut down trees to grow things for these bio fuels really is defeating the purpose. The trees filter out harmful gases and give us oxygen, they also attract rain. I believe that a portion of global warming is caused by too little trees and too much concrete. It’s much cooler in the shade than on a sidewalk.

  • Stuart

    I would be interested in knowing whether, the hydrogen is being sourced purely from the simple sugars or whether the bacteria are capable of hydrolysis, in so doing, adding H2 to the carbon molecule whilst converting carbon to CO2

  • Stencil.cat

    Spiffy. As long as the facilities are safe we wouldn’t have a problem about e-coli breakouts. Sounds like a good idea. Easy source of hydrogen anywhere.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t imagine there’s much sugar in yer average septic tank. If there is, you might be diabetic.

  • Anonymous

    to answer a question waaay up there, they probably chose e coli because they’re the easiest to change the genetic structure of with what we know.

  • Duncan

    Why E. coli? It’s the bacteria we know the most about. It’s easy to work with, grows quickly. It’s used in the pharmacutical industry to produce many drugs. E. coli isn’t harmful. Sure, some strains are. Those strains give E. coli a bad name to those who know nothing. You yourself harbor many strains of E. coli in your own GI tract.

  • Andrew Jones

    This time, E.Coli is beneficial, not destructive.