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Power Science

Mussels With Hydrogen Fuel Cells Found 76

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-efficient-than-the-coal-burning-shrimp dept.
greenrainbow writes "According to scientists, there are mussels at the bottom of the ocean that are efficiently converting hydrogen into energy in their very own, nature-made hydrogen fuel cells (abstract). The mussels were found near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor and have onboard symbiotic bacteria that convert hydrogen into energy. With this discovery, researchers might be able to clone the hydrogen eating bacteria to create all-natural hydrogen fuel cells to power things other than sea life."
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Mussels With Hydrogen Fuel Cells Found

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday August 15, 2011 @02:58PM (#37097620)

    Jeez, we already know how to do hydrogen fuel cells. Come on nature, give us some info we can USE for once.

    • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Monday August 15, 2011 @03:12PM (#37097824)
      Ya I bet the Starfish can do fusion. I mean why else would anyone call it a starfish?
    • by blair1q (305137)

      True dat.

      We can consume the hydrogen just fine.

      Now, if these bacteria found in the mussles could turn seawater into H2 and O2...

    • by perpenso (1613749)

      Jeez, we already know how to do hydrogen fuel cells. Come on nature, give us some info we can USE for once.

      Perhaps nature is irritated that we have not done much with hot fusion yet. ;-)

      "You can't always get what you want
      But if you try sometimes well you might find
      You get what you need"
      The Rolling Stones

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Jeez, we already know how to do hydrogen fuel cells. Come on nature, give us some info we can USE for once."

      Anyone else thinking "Mussel Matrix" where we ranch massive genetically engineered shellfish to milk for sweet, sweet energy while keeping them content with a computer-generated experience of a happy universe?

      • You mean like we currently do with Horseshoe crabs, catching them in huge masses, draining their blood and then returning them to the sea?

        • care to explain?
          I'm uneducated on this, find it intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_crab

            Their blood contains amebocytes, which play a role similar to white blood cells for vertebrates in defending the organism against pathogens. Amebocytes from the blood of L. polyphemus are used to make Limulus amebocyte lysate, which is used for the detection of bacterial endotoxins.

    • Cold Fusion? Who would want that?

      Python would be much better. Or maybe PHP. Hell, I'll even take plain ol' JavaScript, but CF?

    • by godel_56 (1287256)

      Jeez, we already know how to do hydrogen fuel cells. Come on nature, give us some info we can USE for once.

      And at what temperature do human-made fuel cells work?

      And what's the size of the smallest fuel cells we can make?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 15, 2011 @03:05PM (#37097720)

    for the new generation of mussel cars.

  • My giant squid shaped, world cruising, shipping menace of a submersible is one step closer to fruition!

  • by eparker05 (1738842) on Monday August 15, 2011 @03:17PM (#37097902)

    To summarize their results with a little more rigor; these deep sea organisms use hydrogen as an electron donor for the fixation of carbon (in the form of dissolved bicarbonate). There is little to suggest at this moment that the scientists have a ready method for using these enzymes to produce electric flow. For example, we have known the complete cycle of electrons in photosynthesis yet no solar panels are enzyme based. So I would be cautious of using the term 'fuel cell' which implies the production of electricity.

    Please note that the scientists themselves never made the claim that the clams had a 'hydrogen fuel cell' and the discovery of an organism that uses hydrogen gas as an electron donor is a significant one.

  • sharks with frikin' laser beams attatched to their heads.
  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Monday August 15, 2011 @03:24PM (#37097986) Journal

    The real tricks with the hydrogen fuel cells are getting a reliable source of hydrogen with a low energy input (it's almost always found in compound with other elements) and storing it at high enough volumes to be really useful without using high pressures or exotic, expensive materials.

    I rather prefer the cellulose to biodiesel bacteria, algae, and fungi that are being researched. It seems to be a more useful fuel, and cellulose seems a lot more readily available than loose hydrogen. Biobutanol from cellulose [domesticfuel.com] is being researched in Japan, and butanol is a fairly straightforward replacement for at least part of a diesel's fuel. There's a fungus found in a rainforest [typepad.com] that converts sugar or cellulose into a number of hydrocarbons and can be urged to make more based on exposure to antibiotic compounds. There's talk of work to genetically engineer something to do this, which likely would be a bacterium like e. coli engineered to produce the same compounds from the same feedstocks. In fact, e. coli is already being used [scientificamerican.com] in research to convert cellulose into diesel and kerosene.

    • Diesel substitutes are actually pretty easy to make. Gasoline substitutes are much harder, to the point most of them cost more gasoline than they replace. Ethanol for fuel is a joke being played on all of us, a scam at our expense. The faster we give up on ethanol and get into bio-diesel, the better.
      • Well, theoretically you could make ethanol out of cellulose as well as from the sugars. The thing is, you can make biodiesel out of much the same stuff with less processing.

        I think the main drive behind ethanol is that there are few diesel passenger vehicles right now, and it's easier to convert a gasoline vehicle to ethanol than to diesel. However, since we're talking plugin pure electrics, plugin hybrids, grease cars, propane, NG, LNG, LP, hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen combustion (again, more of a stop gap

  • by jfengel (409917) on Monday August 15, 2011 @03:27PM (#37098052) Homepage Journal

    If you thought that American and Chinese universities were the only ones who pump up their press releases with nonsense to attract more attention, the Max Planck Gesselschaft offers up evidence to the contrary.

    The real news here: they've discovered a novel mechanism for chemosynthesis, which is how organisms can make energy from chemicals rather than photosynthesis. It's already been observed with other hydrogen compounds like hydrogen sulfide and methane, but it hadn't been observed for pure hydrogen until now.

    It's probably not useful for powering cars. There's nothing surprising or novel about the ability to extract energy from pure hydrogen or hydrogen compounds; it's surprising and novel that you can power a living organism that way. The hard part has always been obtaining and transporting high-energy hydrogen compounds in the first place (though fuel cells can always use some improvement).

    Of course you never know what insights are going to come from any novel mechanism you discover, but the article doesn't go into applications and there's no reason to imagine it would be good for cars. The keyword for this study is microbiology, not engineering, and that's is just a way to try to make it sound more immediately applicable than it is.

    I suppose it's asking too much for press release writers to stick to the actual facts, which are interesting enough in this case, rather than unfounded speculation.

    • by vlm (69642)

      it's surprising and novel that you can power a living organism that way.

      Its also kinda a problem. "everyone knows" diesel needs a biocide or it gets eaten by bacteria and its a serious problem. Its not an issue, as far as I know, for any other gas or liquid fuel. (Dilute ethanol can ferment into acetic acid aka vinegar, but dilute ethanol isn't much of a fuel to begin with) But now it seems "stuff" could grow inside a H2 pipeline, which is interesting. Probably this will be yet another good reason for humidity control inside pipelines, yet another good reason for H2 filtra

      • The only stuff that could grow would either have to be intentionally transported from 3km below the ocean surface or spontaneously follow the same evolutionary path that took millions of years down there. Doubtful.
  • TFA mentions nothing about cloning. Do we lack a growth medium [wikipedia.org] that works for this bacteria or is that just a throw away line in the summary?
  • Return of the mussel car
  • ... and I can party all night long!
  • Quick, kill them and take their advanced technological devices!!!!

  • hydrogen metabolism (Score:4, Informative)

    by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday August 15, 2011 @03:46PM (#37098268) Journal

    Bacteria that do hydrogen oxidation [wikipedia.org] as a method for driving their metabolism have been known for decades. The novel thing in this paper is that they've found a symbiont, where a eukaryote (in this case a mussel) coexists with hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria, whereas previously the known hydrothermal vent symbionts contained bacteria with sulfur-based compounds or methane metabolic cycles. Unfortunately there appears to be nothing new about hydrogen metabolism, and nothing particularly useful for humans who want to harness hydrogen metabolism, in this.

  • If I back the muscles I have to know, Does white wine conduct electricity?

  • As if turning corn/sugar cane into ethanol wasn't enough, now mussels will become fuel.

    What's next, pizza fuel??

  • but it sure as fuck wont start my car

    whats next, Solar powered plants produce energy in nature???

  • Seems kinda scary! All these mussels emitting Dihydrogen Monoxide - we all know how dangerous that is.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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