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Biotech Science

Microbes Churn Out Hydrogen at Record Rate 168

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the now-make-stuff-that-uses-hydrogen dept.
FiReaNGeL writes to mention that Penn State Researchers have improved on their original microbial electrolysis cell design bringing the resulting system up to better than 80 percent efficiency when considering all energy inputs and outputs. "By tweaking their design, improving conditions for the bacteria, and adding a small jolt of electricity, they increased the hydrogen yield to a new record for this type of system. 'We achieved the highest hydrogen yields ever obtained with this approach from different sources of organic matter, such as yields of 91 percent using vinegar (acetic acid) and 68 percent using cellulose,' said Logan. In certain configurations, nearly all of the hydrogen contained in the molecules of source material converted to usable hydrogen gas, an efficiency that could eventually open the door to bacterial hydrogen production on a larger scale."
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Microbes Churn Out Hydrogen at Record Rate

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:42PM (#21342807) Homepage Journal
    Quick, block and ban this article before the boss sees it.
    If he had his way he will fill the water cooler with vinegar to try to increase our productivity.
    (If you are working at EA I'm afraid its too late)
  • Uhm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lorenzino (1130749) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:43PM (#21342819)
    This reminds me a lot of some Asimov books. So, are we getting there ?
    • I sure hope so. Getting this sort of tech as a backyard/rooftop energy generator could be insanely useful. Off the grid for nothing...Hydrogen beats the crap out of batteries as far as energy storage, so high efficiency solar or this sort of biological solution used to produce hydrogen to power your house and your car...Wow. And 80% efficiency is pretty damn good, for a line of research that is still pretty primitive.

      A biological system would (probably) be lower setup than a solar system as well, at least g
      • Re:Uhm (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rei (128717) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @06:29PM (#21343321) Homepage
        Hydrogen beats the crap out of batteries as far as energy storage

        Not currently it doesn't. Top-of-the-line hydrogen-powered vehicles are about on par, range-wise, with top-of-the-line lithium-ion powered vehicles (for vehicles released this fall, say, compare a Roadster with an Equinox -- both 200 mile range). But they're notably less thermodynamically efficient and have worse performance. Honda has a prototype FCX that they say will be able to get 350 miles by using an undisclosed storage material, but storage materials always raise issues of their own (such as how much energy it takes to get the hydrogen in and out -- thus hurting the thermodynamic efficiency even more), and if you want to count vehicles that don't exist yet... Of course, if your energy source is hydrogen *to begin with*, sure, hydrogen would be a better choice present-day. We'll have to see how each respective technology advances. Personally, I'd rather we be driving largely on grid power instead of trying to store all our energy on the vehicle ;)

        Getting this sort of tech as a backyard/rooftop energy generator could be insanely useful

        You want them to eat your roof? You did read the article (or even the summary) and realize that these aren't photosynthetic bacteria, right? That will almost certainly come in the future, but that's not what we're dealing with here.

        A biological system would (probably) be lower setup than a solar system as well, at least given current tech.

        But maintenance can be very tricky. Bacteria mutate, get attacked, and so on. Plus, you need to keep feeding them and removing waste products. This is certainly viable, present-day, in industrial scale applications, but it probably won't scale down very well any time soon.

        I will agree with you on one thing:

        Wow. And 80% efficiency is pretty damn good, for a line of research that is still pretty primitive.

        It sure is.
        • Bacteria are fairly low maintenance - so the risk form attack is low as they can mutate to defend against the invasion. However as long as you keep feeding them the right stuff they will continuously optimise for the task :) (although depending on their metabolism they may see the production of hydrogen as inefficient way of reproducing themselves and switch to a different by-product that works faster)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Firethorn (177587)
            although depending on their metabolism they may see the production of hydrogen as inefficient way of reproducing themselves and switch to a different by-product that works faster

            That's indeed part of the problem from what I've heard for using bacteria to produce stuff.

            Likely any home user would have to 'scrub' his system every so often as non-hydrogen producing bacteria start emerging and taking over. Hopefully the fix would be equivalent as opening a yeast packet for making bread is today.

            Still, I don't s
            • by MightyYar (622222)

              Plugging in at night is about as far as I'll give them.
              Pffft... who wants that hassle? I can only be persuaded to fill the tank because it is less of a hassle than walking to the nearest station with a gas can in hand. :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jchernia (590097)
          Keep in mind that septic tanks work on this principle, just drop new tablets of the bacteria in every once in a while and processing resumes, clear water leeches out and there is a ready supply of food for them. Been in use on small scale for a very long time. Composting also works with a constant supply of food on a small scale.

          As for eating your roof, there are already bacteria that do that, but they have to be in the belly of a termite to survive, likewise if some of these were to get out, I don't imagin
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by fain0v (257098)
          Bacterial maintenance is really quite easy. I have been maintaining my own methane producing bacteria for decades now.
        • Re:Uhm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 2ms (232331) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:16PM (#21345857)
          Why are you comparing batteries to fuel cells in "thermodynamic efficiency". Batteries do not have "thermodynamic efficiency". A battery is not an engine, it's a container of an electrical potential that was put there probably by burning coal. You do realize that's where something like 80% of grid power comes from right? The battery's analog in current automotive propulsion is the gas tank in your Honda or whatever. Find out what the "thermodynamic efficiency" of the process of creating the electricity and then getting it into your lithium ion batteries, and then we can start making useful comparisons to other systems for automotive propulsion. Also, talking about range as if the range of a fuel cell vehicle was directly comparable to the range of a simple/straight EV (ie no production of power on bard, only storage) has limited validity too -- hydrogen vehicles are able to refill their hydrogen tanks about as fast as current gas cars fill their's, if not faster. EV's on the other hand, need to sit at a charger for a minimum of a couple hours, and if battery longevity is desired, really need to charge over an entire night. By the way, for those of you who don't know about it the Fuel Cell Equinox [autoweek.com] is extremely impressive. It's a mass produced, production fuel cell vehicle with the full interior room of a normal Equinox, that'll be driven by 1000 "owners" in the 3 major cities next year. It's been quite a wakeup call to the rest of the auto industry.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Rei (128717)
            Thermodynamics applies to *everything*, not just heat engines. Are you confusing thermodynamics as a whole with the Carnot limit?

            All processes are lossy. Batteries, however, are very minimally lossy. Charging and discharging a lithium-ion battery loses virtually no power. Not so with hydrogen. The best you'll do with a fuel cell is something like 70% efficiency. Likewise, excepting these special cases of direct hydrogen generation, creating the hydrogen itself is also a lossy process. And there's los
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by InvalidError (771317)

              To translate, that's 342 Wh/kg (compared to 150-200 Wh/kg for Li-ion. And it has a lower discharge rate and doesn't lose capacity like Li-ion.

              Much of the self-discharge we see in contemporary Li-ion batteries comes from built-in monitoring circuitry made necessary thanks to classic lithium chemistry's volatility. More advanced lithium technologies like AltairNano's NanoSafe will drastically improve lithium cell's reliability, durability, safety, high-current charge/discharge capability along with a few othe

            • by GooberToo (74388)
              Charging and discharging a lithium-ion battery loses virtually no power.

              Hmmm. I don't think I buy into that statement. Many battery manufacturers and retailers are starting to provide battery efficiency information in order to justify the higher costs of higher efficiency battery packs. The high end battery packs seem to be 85% - 94% efficient. While good, that still seems to be a far cry from "discharging...loses virtually no power".

              I typically buy packs in the high 80s because the price starts ramping
              • by Rei (128717)
                From here: [batteryuniversity.com]

                "The charge time of most chargers is about 3 hours. Smaller batteries used for cell phones can be charged at 1C; the larger 18650 cell used for laptops should be charged at 0.8C or less. The charge efficiency is 99.9% and the battery remains cool during charge. Full charge is attained after the voltage threshold has been reached and the current has dropped to 3% of the rated current or has leveled off."
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by 2ms (232331)
              Believe me I'm not confusing it with the Carnot efficiency. Yes, of course, everything in the world obeys the 3 laws of thermodynamics...

              You are missing the point.

              Talking about how much energy is lost in the transfer of electricity in and out of batteries is one of the least significant inefficiencies in the process of getting electricity in and out of EVs (you yourself tout it is being low). Comparing this efficiency to the overall efficiency of the electricity production process of a fuel cell while ign
              • Toyota has more lines of SUVs than they do cars?
                In the USA, Toyota has these SUVs: RAV4, Highlander, 4Runner, FJ, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser. Last I could count, that's 6. Do you want to throw in the Scion xB? 7. The car tally: Yaris, Corolla, Matrix, Camry, Solara, Avalon, Prius. 6 to 7. If you add in the Scions, xD and tC, the tally is 7 to 9.
                • by 2ms (232331)
                  Each of those SUVs is a distinct model. The Matrix is a Corolla station wagon just with name and bodykit aimed at avoiding station wagon image -- same car in every respect but appearance. Likewise, the Solara is a coupe version of the Camry -- everything under the skin same car. The Avalon is Camry only with wheelbase extended a foot for more rear-pasenger legroom and a slightly larger displacement version of engine.

                  Toyota has 4 car platforms. Toyota has 6 SUV platforms + 2 truck platforms that are not
              • by Rei (128717)
                Talking about how much energy is lost in the transfer of electricity in and out of batteries is one of the least significant inefficiencies in the process of getting electricity in and out of EVs (you yourself tout it is being low). Comparing this efficiency to the overall efficiency of the electricity production process of a fuel cell while ignoring what the "thermodynamic efficiency" of the process which creates the electricity that goes in the battery-only cars is asinine and misleading.

                I'm starting the
            • Charging batteries produces waste heat. Discharging batteries produces waste heat (remember the laptop battery getting hot enough to start a fire? Waste heat.) And the electricity has to come from somewhere.

              Compare the total energy cycles:

              Sunlight -> plants -> cellulose ->(bacterial fermentation in this step)-> hydrogen -> fuel cell -> electricity -> vehicle motion

              (Sunlight -> plants ->) coal -> electricity -> transmission -> battery storage -> vehicle motion

              The 70%
              • by Rei (128717)
                This is one of the few cycles in which hydrogen is produced this way (which is why this could be a breakthrough if it can be commercialized). The typical method for producing hydrogen renewably is electrolysis, and the typical way to produce it directly from fossil fuel is nearly as lossy as your typical combustion cycle. It's either

                Renewable source->electricity->transmission->electrolysis->hydrogen->transportation->storage in the vehicle->removal from storage->fuel cell->electr
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fordiman (689627)
        "Hydrogen beats the crap out of batteries as far as energy storage"

        That really depends on the drivetrain involved. For example, Natural Gas ICE's, like those used in city busses, top out at 30% Carnot (pretty damned low). Our best HFC electric drivetrain will put out 35% Ideal (higher than 35% Carnot) at high load, but the number of cells needed to effect that kind of output are high (heavier 'engine'). Include the 80% efficiency from generation, and the 25% efficiency hit for making the hydrogen liquid,
    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      This reminds me a lot of some Asimov books.

      Which ones? I don't recall any of Asimov's universes being based on a hydrogen combustion economy.
  • by eln (21727) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:46PM (#21342849) Homepage
    This is absolutely horrible, and I demand it be stopped! These researchers are advocating the mass enslavement of innocent microbes. These microbes will be forced to work nonstop on Hydrogen production from the moment they are born to the moment they are finally literally worked to death. Multiple generations of microbes will toil endlessly in these bacterial concentration camps, with no relief in sight!

    We must stop the senseless abuse of microbial rights! We must fight for the smallest and most vulnerable among us! Stop this horror now!
    • You must have granted sovereignty to the bacteria in your stomach. If not, you're just another oppressor of our bactobretheren.
    • by Jeremi (14640) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:58PM (#21342977) Homepage
      These microbes will be forced to work nonstop on Hydrogen production from the moment they are born to the moment they are finally literally worked to death


      Relax, dude. We've fixed them up with an excellent simulation of their society at the peak of its development. They'll go happily about their simulated lives, and never know they are just sitting in a vat generating power for us.

    • by pclminion (145572)
      Oh, the humanity! Imagine all the poor little penicillium molds in your bleu cheese, suffering and toiling to no good end. And the wretched yeasts which live in your beer, enslaved to a life of ethanol production. And don't even get me started on the fungal rights issues associated with kombucha tea.
    • I wonder when we will see people trying to purchase Vegan Hydrogen. Because I could probably sell it for a 2x markup and have a ready made audience.
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      This is absolutely horrible, and I demand it be stopped! These researchers are advocating the mass enslavement of innocent microbes. These microbes will be forced to work nonstop on Hydrogen production from the moment they are born to the moment they are finally literally worked to death. Multiple generations of microbes will toil endlessly in these bacterial concentration camps, with no relief in sight!

      We must stop the senseless abuse of microbial rights! We must fight for the smallest and most vulnerabl

    • Buy this poster a beer!
  • by Penguinshit (591885) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:48PM (#21342873) Homepage Journal

    I have a high hydrocarbon yield from beer. Does that help?

    Cabbage consumption increases yield dramatically!

  • by explosivejared (1186049) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `deraj.nagah'> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:50PM (#21342899)
    From the PSU Press Release [psu.edu]:

    "This process produces 288 percent more energy in hydrogen than the electrical energy that is added to the process," says Logan.

    That illustrates just how big the jump in efficiency is here. These bacteria are amazing little energy multipliers. It's quite astonishing!
    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:56PM (#21342965)
      Yes, but the bacteria are producing it from decaying plant material. You'd have to see how much greenhouse gases are being produced by the bacteria as they decompose the vinegar/cellulose/whatever before calling this a better solution than conventional electrolysis.
      • by Gregb05 (754217) <bakergo&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @06:03PM (#21343031) Journal
        It's 0 sum with how much greenhouse gas is being captured by growing the plant.

        The only thing that ISN'T 0-sum would be pulling greenhouse gases out from hundreds of feet underground; Which we already do.
        • Plants get carbon from the ground too. In fact, industrialized agriculture has been depleting soil organic carbon for decades from overfertilization and overproduction. If we start mass-producing even more crops to supply our energy needs, we may trade sucking carbon from miles below the ground for carbon inches below the ground, but the problem will remain the same.
          • by mspohr (589790)
            Plants do not get any carbon from the ground. They get their carbon from the air... CO2

            This is very basic biology.

        • by famebait (450028)
          It's 0 sum

          Yes, but the distribution of that sum over different stages of the cycle can still be shifted.

          Using agricultural produce or waste for fuel immediately in stead of letting it decompose more slowly will decrease the proportion of carbon trapped in organic matter, and shift it into the atmosphere. If biofuels become big, this amount will rise to become a significant factor. Still miles better than burning coal, of course, not least since it's reversible in theory, but if photovoltaic or photosynthet
          • by Dan Ost (415913)
            If this is really a problem, then we could offset this by creating charcoal from some of the plant matter and burying it. That puts carbon back in the ground in a form that won't decompose and end up back in the atmosphere.

            Perhaps that would be a way of creating carbon credits?
            • by famebait (450028)
              or just storing the fuel for a really long time before spending it. Either way: not very economically viable, I'm afraid.
      • by Angstroem (692547) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @06:08PM (#21343075)

        Uhm, but you are aware that the decaying plant material can't give off more CO2 or other Carbon-based greenhouse gases than it originally consisted of. Close cycle and such.

        Grow a tree. Burn a tree. No increase in greenhouse gas.

        As long as you don't use your conventional gas-powered buzz saw to bring it down and an F350 to haul it to your place...

      • by Jimmy_B (129296)
        <blockquote>Yes, but the bacteria are producing it from decaying plant material. You'd have to see how much greenhouse gases are being produced by the bacteria as they decompose the vinegar/cellulose/whatever before calling this a better solution than conventional electrolysis.</blockquote>
        Incorrect. The bacteria will release carbon dioxide, yes, but that same carbon was taken out of the air by the plants they're decomposing. Electrolysis doesn't release carbon dioxide per se, but it uses electr
        • Electrolysis doesn't release carbon dioxide per se, but it uses electricity which comes from coal or oil, to produce hydrogen that contains less energy than the oil you had to burn to make it

          I think you miss the point of hydrogen power. As nice as it would be to have vehicles powered by clean, renewable energy, mechanical engineers have thus far been stymied in designing solar plants, wind farms, or hydroelectric dams to fit stock passenger vehicles. Fortunately, other engineers who more frequently "think
  • by compumike (454538) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:58PM (#21342981) Homepage
    The 80% figure is impressive. But beware of the efficiency numbers they quote. This isn't the full fuel cycle. You've still got to compress and distribute hydrogen, which takes a lot (gases take lots of work to compress). For a vehicle, burning it isn't too efficient maybe 30-40%, and fuel cells aren't quite there yet.

    Additionally, with any kind of electrolytically-driven process like this one, there's a HUGE efficiency penalty once you increase the flow rates to be anything substantial. And you need to, because otherwise the amount of hydrogen produced per fuel cell area would be tiny. And then, at that point, you've got the problem of lots of carbon to dispose of. Guess what -- this working microbial fuel cell takes C,H,O in as vinegar or cellulose, and outputs H2 and CO2! Do you really call that 'carbon neutral' as a fuel source? It's still dumping CO2 into the atmosphere, just less of it per Joule of useful energy.

    Still, this is a great direction for them to keep going... there are very interesting things you can do with hydrogen, even to extend existing liquid fuel stocks (i.e. crude oil to gasoline) by hydrogenation. (Much cheaper than building lots of fuel cells... but not carbon-neutral.)

    --
    Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]
    • I would imagine that a certain percentage of the carbon goes into making the next gen of microbes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Gregb05 (754217)

      Guess what -- this working microbial fuel cell takes C,H,O in as vinegar or cellulose, and outputs H2 and CO2! Do you really call that 'carbon neutral' as a fuel source? It's still dumping CO2 into the atmosphere, just less of it per Joule of useful energy.
      Yes, I do call it carbon neutral. The plants take in C02, H20 and E to create vinegar and cellulose, and due to thermodynamics, plants can't create more H20 and C02 than they take in; so by definition it's carbon neutral.
      • by timeOday (582209)

        Yes, I do call it carbon neutral. The plants take in C02, H20 and E to create vinegar and cellulose, and due to thermodynamics, plants can't create more H20 and C02 than they take in; so by definition it's carbon neutral.
        Exactly, and the quicker we go carbon neutral the better. (Though after burning so many fossil fuels, we're already way behind. What we *really* need is a car that poops carbon bricks we can bury back in the coal mines).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HTH NE1 (675604)

        Yes, I do call it carbon neutral. The plants take in CO2, H2O and E to create vinegar and cellulose, and due to thermodynamics, plants can't create more H2O and CO2 than they take in; so by definition it's carbon neutral.

        Except that CO2 is now airborne again instead of locked inside the plants, when they could have carried it deep into the soil and become fossil fuels.

        By your logic, the planet as a whole is carbon neutral as nothing from the outside is adding carbon. Indeed, putting stuff into orbit and on interplanetary and interstellar probes is carbon negative (the carbon put into the atmosphere from the combustion during launch was already here).

        With that mindset, it sounds like the only solutions for a carbon negativ

        • by Surt (22457) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @07:03PM (#21343723) Homepage Journal
          I believe the tradition is that carbon neutral means into the air in modern times.

          When you burn fossil fuels, you release carbon into the air that was not fixed into the fuel in modern times. So you release 'new' carbon into the air. Carbon positive.

          When you burn these fuels, you re-release carbon into the air which was fixed in the last year. This is carbon neutral (no change to atmospheric carbon over short time horizon).

          If you take some plants that have fixed some carbon and bury them under a continental fold, that's carbon negative.
          • by TheLink (130905)
            Yep so we should plant more trees, chop them down, convert them to furniture, buildings or landfill them.

            Reduce the recycling and reuse of wood. Or even paper IF the paper is produced in a not so energy and resource intensive process. :)
      • by Ogemaniac (841129)
        It is only carbon neutral when both the manufacture of the fuel cell and the processing and distribution of the fuel are carbon neutral at every step.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hardburn (141468)

      Guess what -- this working microbial fuel cell takes C,H,O in as vinegar or cellulose, and outputs H2 and CO2! Do you really call that 'carbon neutral' as a fuel source?

      Yes, because that's what "carbon neutral" means. You only release as much carbon as you took out of the biosphere in the first place. It's not taking carbon that had been sequestered away for millions of years and releasing it over a 100 year timespan.

      Of course, it's not 100% efficient, so it's still only a fancy battery. The additiona

      • by Erioll (229536)

        Of course, it's not 100% efficient, so it's still only a fancy battery. The additional power has to come from somewhere, and hopefully it won't be oil or coal.

        Kind of. A section from the article is enlightening here:

        Even with the small amount of electricity applied, the hydrogen ultimately provides more energy as a fuel than the electricity needed to drive the reactor. Incorporating all energy inputs and outputs, the overall efficiency of the vinegar-fueled system is better than 80 percent, far better than the efficiency for generation of the leading alternative fuel, ethanol.

        Which is implying that if you throw this hydrogen into a fuel cell as the source of el

        • by GryMor (88799) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @07:34PM (#21344031)
          I wonder what the actual efficiency is if you take into account sequestering the CO2. It should be feasible since you have to sequester the hydrogen anyway and the CO2 is produced in the reactor, that is, fixed infrastructure, rather than in the eventual fuel consuming entity.

          Hell, how much net CO2 could you pull out of the atmosphere with an un fertilized acre of land and a reactor thats producing the hydrogen/electricity needed to fuel the entire endeavor? How does it compare to the real efficiency of current solar cells (after taking into account manufacturing costs/outputs)?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well .. better for carbon that was already circulating in the ecosystem to
      be emitted as CO2 than for carbon from fossil fuels - that was previous sequestered - to be emitted. This is recirculation of carbon, rather than injection of new supplies..
    • Why not just burn the hydogen onsite for electricity generation? Then you don't have to spend energy compressing or moving the hydrogen. Just put the new electricity on the grid. We'll all be driving plug in electric cars before the portable hydrogen economy ever gets going.
      • by Cadallin (863437)
        I think you meant "We'll all be walking and living in dark, unairconditioned caves before the portable hydrogen economy ever gets going"
    • Hiya,

      I'm fairly experienced with these things, so I figure I'll offer up what it looks like to me in terms of efficiency.

      The 80% number is the ratio of the energy contained in the hydrogen gas to the energy contained in the acetic acid plus the energy used in the form of electricity. However, the stated claim that this is more efficient than ethanol is not really justified based on the actual paper (which I read).

      While it may well be better than ethanol (most things are), if we calculate out the actua

    • by oliderid (710055)
      "his working microbial fuel cell takes C,H,O in as vinegar or cellulose, and outputs H2 and CO2! Do you really call that 'carbon neutral' as a fuel source?"

      Vinegar and cellulose come from plants/trees (IMHO).

      So I guess you need dedicated fields to produce these plants.

      These fields will use the CO2 in the athmosphere to produce the required cellulose and ingredients for vinegar.

      you've got a full CO2 cycle, it looks like it is carbon neutral to me (IMHO ?).

    • If the sources for the cellulose are fast growing plants like Hemp [wikipedia.org], then it *is* carbon neutral. (Seriously, dude, you just have to think ahead just 1 more step.)
  • Oh great. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just what we need. An economy powered by bacteria farts.
  • What about the CO2 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Iberian (533067)
    Considering the byproduct is CO2 we would have to come up with a solution to that problem as well. Granted it is better than having CO2 spewed from each tailpipe concetrated at a single powerplant and in theory contained in some way but for what use?
    • by Radon360 (951529) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @08:12PM (#21344353)

      Here's one possible solution:

      Bubble it into water in which you release into shallow man-made ponds in order to accelerate algae growth. Harvest the resultant algae, squeeze the oil out of it and make biodiesel. Put the leftovers from that into a fermenter and get what amount of ethanol you can from it. Then dump whatever is leftover from that onto fields to decompose and enrich the soil.

      Yes, you are eventually liberating the carbon again in multiple paths, but it comes down to whether you want to actually sequester the carbon, or are willing to recycle it through a number of diversified fuels as many times as possible.

  • by Degrees (220395) <degrees@sbcg[ ]al.net ['lob' in gap]> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @06:10PM (#21343093) Homepage Journal
    In America, researchers apply a jolt of electricity to their wastewater bacteria. In Soviet Russia, the brew tases you! Don't Tase me, brew!
  • by AJWM (19027) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @06:11PM (#21343111) Homepage
    bringing the resulting system up to better than 80 percent efficiency when considering all energy inputs and outputs. (emphasis added)

    So like, dudes, where does that other 20% of the energy go? The Phantom Zone? No, wait, that'd be an energy output too.

    Maybe the system just gets heavier.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      The 20% is lost to the environment as heat, or is unable to be extracted. That's what efficiency means. If they were achieving 100% efficiency, the headline would probably read a little differently.
  • by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @08:44PM (#21344613)
    Just a thought here, but once this system reached a one-to-one ratio with our current fossil-fuel usage, it may only take a single asshat to engineer and deploy a virus capable of crippling an entire country.

    Somehow, I doubt a city/state/country-wide quarantine on vehicles (and other devices) using such a system would be a trivial task.
    • by DrKyle (818035)
      Simple solution: The "fuel filter" is a glass like tube with a UV light, all fuel passes through the beam and any DNA or RNA passing through the UV light gets destroyed. I imagine this would be important for any usage (not just the threat of bioterrorism) as you are more likely to get bacterial or fungal contamination if you aren't sterilizing the fuel.
  • Ho-Hum (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TyTheBold (1188529)
    If we can manipulate microbes to produce hydrogen in record amounts, can we manipulate some that take IN CO2 in impacting amounts as well?
    • can we manipulate some that take IN CO2 in impacting amounts as well?


      Yes, but then the same people that bitch about Global Warming will be bitching about Global Cooling. You know, not enough CO2 left to keep us warm and such.

      Face it, it's a waste of time arguing and appeasing these people. But if it makes you happy...
      • by geekoid (135745)
        "These people"

        You mean nearly every scientist and all the studies and the evidence?
    • "can we manipulate some that take IN CO2 in impacting amounts as well?"

      It already exists since a very long time, it's usually called a plant.
  • By tweaking their design, improving conditions for the bacteria, and adding a small jolt of electricity , ..., such as yields of 91 percent using vinegar (acetic acid) and 68 percent using cellulose,'

    Next, the researchers plan to further improve microbes' working conditions by giving them free cokes and coffee instead of vinegar in order to produce more yields. Finally, to maximize outputs, they must find a way to remove the music-playing iPods and the flat-panels that display slashdot pages from the microbes' office cubes -- without causing a strike; as a side benefit, the electricity is not needed anymore.

  • donttasemebrew (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dwater (72834) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:13PM (#21345843)
    Regarding the tag...what ever happened to that guy?
  • To do that you need the infrastructure to distribute and dispense it. It's never been an issue of making enough H2, but of getting it into the cars.
  • until the microbes form a union. Numbering in the Bazillions they will have huge political clout !

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