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Press Release 07-168

Microbes Churn Out Hydrogen at Record Rate

In new table-top reactor, bacteria from wastewater produce abundant, clean hydrogen from cellulose, or even vinegar, and a little electricity

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In a microbial electrolysis cell, bacteria break up fermented plant waste to form hydrogen

Researchers have designed a microbial electrolysis cell in which bacteria break up acetic acid (a product of plant waste fermentation) to produce hydrogen gas with a very small electric input from an outside source. Hydrogen can then be used for fuel cells or as a fuel additive in vehicles that now run on natural gas.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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A microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) shown with a power source used to boost bacterial coltage.

A microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) shown with the power source used to augment the voltage produced by the bacteria. Bacteria grow in the anode chamber, forming a biofilm on graphite granules, while hydrogen gas is released at the cathode and bubbles up and into the tube on top of the reactor.

Credit: Photograph by Shaoan Cheng, Penn State University


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