Researchers at Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Georgia have produced hydrogen gas pure enough to power a fuel cell from cellulosic materials (from wood chips) using a mixture of 14 enzymes, one coenzyme and water heated to about 32°C.

Jonathan Mielenz, leader of the Bioconversion Science and Technology Group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory said that "It is exciting because using cellulose instead of starch expands the renewable resource for producing hydrogen to include biomass."

The "one pot" process involves three advances

  • a novel combination of enzymes
  • an increased hydrogen generation rate — to as fast as natural hydrogen fermentation, and
  • the highest hydrogen yield reported from cellulosic materials.

Percival Zhang, assistant professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech said that "If a small fraction — 2 or 3 percent — of yearly biomass production were used for sugar-to-hydrogen fuel cells for transportation, we could reach transportation fuel independence."