An egg-cellent source of renewable energy

February 17, 2018

Researchers from Osaka City University in Japan have discovered that using proteins taken from egg whites could help facilitate the carbon-free production of hydrogen.

Although hydrogen is considered clean fuel because it emits nothing but water when burnt, the creation of the gas itself is a less eco-friendly affair. Currently, the mass production of hydrogen involves the burning of fossil fuels, a process which releases harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Scientists have discovered that is possible to generate hydrogen for fuel cleanly using a photocatalyst like solar power by creating a fluid to store the substance. But free-moving and randomly located molecules and particles in the fluid can interfere with the process of producing hydrogen and scientists have long searched for a way to immobilise them.

A team of scientists at Osaka City University believe they have found the solution. The researchers, led by Professor Yusuke Yamada, have developed a method in which the protein contained in egg whites can be harnessed to build crystals with lots of tiny holes to trap these particles.

“We found protein was a useful tool” to generate hydrogen in a lab without using a fossil fuel, the professor told AFP.

The whites of chicken eggs, which are inexpensive and inexhaustible, consist of porous lysozyme crystals.

“Lysozyme crystals have a highly ordered nanostructure and, thus, we can manipulate the molecular components when they accumulate in the crystals,” Hiroyasu Tabe, a special appointment research associate at the Graduate School of Engineering at the university, said. The crystal structure can be easily analysed with X-ray technology.

The change brought a sense of traffic control to the molecular interactions and improved the efficiency of clean, hydrogen production, Yamada was cited as saying. The discovery was published in the February edition of the scientific journal “Applied Catalysis B”.

Hydrogen is considered by many as the ultimate clean energy. If an efficient method to generate the gas can be found, it could be used to power everything from cars to buildings.

Source: Osaka City University; AFP

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