NATURAL BATTERY – WAY DISCOVERED TO CONVERT AIR INTO ELECTRICITY

Scientists in Australia have discovered a bacterial enzyme that converts air into electricity. The enzyme is a “natural battery” that uses the small amounts of hydrogen in the atmosphere to generate electricity.

This opens the way, possibly, for the production of a new form of environmentally friendly renewable energy.

According to APE-MPE, the researchers of Monas University in Melbourne, led by Professor Chris Greening, who made the relevant publication in the journal “Nature”, reported that several bacteria use the hydrogen in the air as an energy source that helps them to are developing. Now, for the first time, they have scrutinized a non-pathogenic common soil bacterium, Mycobacterium smegmatis, and found an enzyme in it, Huc, that is able to “eat” hydrogen and generate electricity.

As researcher Dr Reese Grinder noted, “Huc is remarkably effective. Unlike all other known enzymes and chemical catalysts, it consumes hydrogen at very low atmospheric levels, just 0.00005% of the air we breathe.”

Research has shown that Huc can be stored for a long period of time. “It’s remarkably stable. It is possible for this enzyme to be frozen or heated to 80 degrees Celsius, still retaining the power to produce energy. This reflects the ability of the enzyme to help bacteria survive in the most extreme environments, from Antarctica to volcano craters and deep oceans,” the researchers said.

Huc’s discovery, although the research is still in its early stages, paves the way for the development of devices that generate energy from the air instead of the sun or wind. There are, after all, other bacteria that possess enzymes similar to Huc.

“We imagine that an energy source containing Huc will be able to power a range of small portable devices that will use air, such as biometric sensors, environmental monitoring systems, digital watches, small computers, etc. But when the Huc is fed more hydrogen, it also produces more electricity. This means it could be harnessed in fuel cells to power more complex devices such as smartwatches, smartphones, laptops or possibly even cars,” said Grinder.

Therefore, the next important step will be the possibility of producing this enzyme in large quantities, so that in the future it can be used for the mass production of clean energy. Link to the scientific publication: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-05781-7

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