Australian scientists discover enzyme that can turn air into electricity

(Xinhua) 15:01, March 10, 2023

SYDNEY, March 10 (Xinhua) -- A research team led by the Monash University has discovered an enzyme which uses low amounts of hydrogen in the atmosphere to create an electrical current.

According to the study published in Nature on Wednesday, researchers extracted the hydrogen-consuming enzyme called Huc from a common soil bacterium called Mycobacterium smegmatis.

They found that Huc has a large electrochemical overpotential that makes it uniquely tuned for the oxidation of trace quantities of hydrogen and for the direct donation of the resulting electrons to the respiratory cofactor menaquinone.

Rhys Grinter, one of the lead authors and research fellows from the Monash University, said in a statement on Thursday that Huc is "extraordinarily efficient."

"Unlike all other known enzymes and chemical catalysts, it even consumes hydrogen below atmospheric levels, as little as 0.00005 percent of the air we breathe," said Grinter.

While this research is at an early stage, the discovery of Huc has considerable potential to develop small air-powered devices, such as an alternative to solar-powered devices.

Grinter noted that the bacteria which produce enzymes like Huc are common and can be grown in large quantities, which means that people have access to a sustainable source of the enzyme.

The researcher has set scaling up Huc production as a key objective for future work. "Once we produce Huc in sufficient quantities, the sky is quite literally the limit for using it to produce clean energy," Grinter said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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