Bug’s Powerhouse

February 19th, 2013 BY Prav | 2 Comments

A bug known to cause food-poisoning may soon solve the environmental crises brought about by fossil fuels. Who would have thought that?

A scientist from the chemical engineering department of Texas A&M University has tweaked the bug to produce hydrogen. Thomas Wood, the scientist, tinkered with the genes of E. coli making it to yield hydrogen.

The genetically modified bug churns out 140 times more hydrogen than the natural way of production. Wood reports about the findings in an article published in Microbial Biotechnology. The scientists have removed several genes of it making it harmless. By doing this, the researchers also converted the bug into a hydrogen-producing factory, which runs on sugar fuel. As this bug thrives on sugar, it is possible to get sugar from certain crops.

This bug is no stranger to the realm of science. This bug has played roles in producing synthetic human insulin and vaccine development. According to Wood, the bug could be used to make hydrogen by breaking down sugar molecules. All it takes to produce hydrogen is a chemical reaction known as fermentation. It shuns the need of heating or electricity saving energy. But how to tap the hydrogen gas? It will be easy. One can gather the gas once it comes bubbling out of the solution.

The bug-based technique has answers to many problems. It doesn’t need a pipeline to transport hydrogen. Add to it, risks of transportation. Instead, hydrogen could be produced on spot. All you need to carry is sugar. The existing technique to generate hydrogen is expensive and consumes vast energy. But Wood’s bug promises to offer clean, inexpensive and easy-to-use fuel to power big cars and even tiny electronic gadgets. Currently, Wood’s team is busy in coaxing the bug to reduce its hunger for sugar. Though Wood’s work is far from commercially available, it conjures up a future dominated by hydrogen fuel.

  1. nadya kok

    i do not like the idea of genetic tweaking to make nature abide by our needs. Have we not learned our lesson w.r.t. genetic mutification and the harm it can cause?

    • Responses to nadya kok
      a pacy says:
      May 9

      E. coli is a bacteria commonly genetically altered to produce all sorts of products (ex. insulin and ethanol). It is a harmless process and the desired product that the bacteria produces is not actually genetically modified. Its just as if it were grown from its original source-the genetically altered bacteria are removed from the product.

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