Stanford researchers have demonstrated the feasibility of a cell-free methodology for producing hydrogen from biomass on an industrial scale. The hydrogen could be used as an alternative fuel or in manufacturing ammonia-based agricultural fertilizers. This process would use a synthetic enzymatic pathway in a cell-extract to transform biomass hydrolysates to hydrogen with high productivity and high conversion yields. The innovators estimate that the potential for a fuel-value productivity at an industrial scale is approximately 400 kJ/L/hr compared to current US biomass-to-ethanol conversion values of around 40 kJ/L/hr. Applications: Hydrogen production – renewable industrial scale production from biomass Development Status: The innovators are in the process of investigating similar enzymes from various organisms that may have an impact on the rate of hydrogen production. They predict that hydrogen production rates may improve up to 60-fold with further research. The researchers are continuing research in order to improve the volumetric productivities to the point where the process would be attractive on the industrial scale by investigating faster enzymes and optimizing reaction conditions.
(1) Cost effective - cheaper than other biomass-to-hydrogen conversion processes (2) Yield is high at realistic production temperatures (3) No purification needed - enzymes can be used in extract form (4) Fast and efficient - produces energy up to ten times faster than current biomass-to-ethanol conversion rates (5) Flexible - the enzyme pathway works with a wide variety of biomass sources of reducing equivalents (6) Minimal environmental impact - could be used to produce fertilizer with minimal new CO2 release