Enzyme discovery could see devices literally create power out of thin air | Scientific and technical news

Devices that literally create energy from air could become a reality thanks to a newly discovered enzyme that turns hydrogen into electric current, scientists have said.

The discovery was made in light of recent work by the same Australian team which showed that many bacteria draw on hydrogen from the atmosphere as an energy source.

This is common in environments lacking nutrients, such as the deep ocean, volcanic craters, and Antarctic soils.

A common soil bacterium, Mycobacterium smegmatis, formed the basis of the new study.

Scientists extracted the enzyme responsible for turning hydrogen into energy from the bacteria and studied it to determine how it works.

The enzyme, called Huc, was found to turn gas into an electric current like a “natural battery”.

It is also possible that the enzyme is stored for long periods of time, it requires only minute concentrations of hydrogen to generate an electric current, and the bacterium that produces it can be cultured in large quantities.

‘Amazing’ enzyme could power small electronics

The team from Melbourne’s Monash University described it as “extraordinarily effective”.

Ashleigh Kropp, a PhD student who worked on the study, said: “It’s surprisingly stable.

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“It is possible to freeze the enzyme or heat it to 80°C, and it retains its power to generate energy.

“This reflects that this enzyme helps bacteria survive in the most extreme environments.”

Huc has been mooted as a potential power source for small electronics, making it a super clean and sustainable form of energy.

The main objective now is to find the best way to increase production.

Dr Rhys Grinter added: “Once we produce Huc in sufficient quantities, the sky is literally the limit to use it to generate clean energy.


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