Bacterial Bioenergy Economy eats Your Trash

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Thermotoga maritima (green/yellow rods) growing in co-culture with Methanococcus jannaschii (red spheres). T. maritima ferments sugars to hydrogen and M. jannaschii converts hydrogen to methane.

These new strains of bacteria that eat trash while producing hydrogen and methane has been like a shot heard round the world recently. I thought I would cover a few of the finer points that could help heal our crude oil/coal dependent economy and help boost into the space age.

First, here are excerts from Engineer Taps Heat-Loving Bacteria for Hydrogen from

A North Carolina State University engineer has been awarded a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to learn more about the microbiology, genetics and genomics behind how and why heat-loving bacteria called thermotogales produce large amounts of hydrogen with unusually high efficiencies. These microorganisms are found all over the globe in areas which are naturally hot – including volcanic sediments, hot springs and brines from deep oil wells.

The findings could help propel the use of hydrogen for many energy applications, including a new era of automobile travel. Hydrogen-powered cars, which exist in limited and expensive supply, are considered by many to be the holy grail of future vehicle travel…

“These organisms produce copious amounts of hydrogen as a waste product of their metabolism, even though hydrogen ultimately inhibits their growth,” Kelly says. “We’d like to learn more about the connection between sugar consumption and hydrogen yields and how to take advantage of their unique bioenergetics at high temperatures…”

That’s right; these bacteria are extremophiles who enjoy hot environments. Imagine your own bioreactor in your backyard which produces all the fuel you need from your trash. This concept is eons ahead of producing your own ethanol from corn which requires a certain amount of finesse in biochemistry.

Imagine your own bioreactor where you thrown in your own food waste, then you have a special tank that retrieves the gas to pump for your hydrogen/methane converted car. Naturally, you would have your backyard barbeque conveniently powered by your own bioreactor tank. Of course, we can also “pass that gas” through a reformer to create electricity. Here’s an earlier article from, Fuel from food waste: bacteria provide power:

Researchers have combined the efforts of two kinds of bacteria to produce hydrogen in a bioreactor, with the product from one providing food for the other. According to an article in the August issue of Microbiology Today, this technology has an added bonus: leftover enzymes can be used to scavenge precious metals from spent automotive catalysts to help make fuel cells that convert hydrogen into energy…

We throw away a third of our food in the UK, wasting 7 million tonnes a year. The majority of this is currently sent to landfill where it produces gases like methane, which is a greenhouse gas 25 more potent than carbon dioxide. Following some major advances in the technology used to make “biohydrogen,” this waste can now be turned into valuable energy…

With a more advanced pre-treatment, biohydrogen can even be produced from the waste from food-crop cultivation, such as corn stalks and husks. Tens of millions of tonnes of this waste is produced every year in the UK. Diverting it from landfill into biohydrogen production addresses both climate change and energy security…

The difference is the article refers to centralised power doing the dirty work while I’m talking about your energy independence. It’s up to you. Either way, bacterial bioenergy defeats our trash problem. We just have to endure biochemistry expert’s “understanding” of the process for them to design the most efficient bioreactors.

It seems to me they should emulate the same environment where they originated, so the bioreactor would have to remain hot: Go Solar! How about a peltier junction that keeps the bioreactor hot while it’s powered by a methane gas reformer which is powered by the bioreactor? The possibilities are endless!

related research tools:

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Model Car

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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Model Car
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The PEM fuel cell in this model can work as either an electrolyzer or a fuel cell. In the electrolyzer mode, hydrogen and oxygen are produced from distilled water with the use of a solar module or power supply. When the storage tank is filled, the stored hydrogen and oxygen are consumed by the reversible fuel cell that powers the vehicle. The components of the car are designed in such a way that many other experiments may be performed as well. It includes instructions.

Item # Description rice Qty



16 V 0821 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Model Car

Related Articles:

Bacteria Power: Future For Clean Energy Lies In ‘Big Bang’ Of Evolution

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) — Amid mounting agreement that future clean, “carbon-neutral”, energy will rely on efficient conversion of the sun’s light energy into fuels and electric power, attention is focusing on one of the most ancient groups of organism, the cyanobacteria…

Energy Via Organic Wastes: Russia Develops Innovative Concept

In Russia, the materials needed to produce energy from organic wastes are plentiful, although the practice is not widespread enough. The most common technique involves the digestion of biomass by anaerobic microorganisms, which then causes the emission of biogas, a mixture of methane (50%-70%) and carbon dioxide (30%-50%). Biogas production comes from at least three sources: agricultural wastes, sewage sludge and solid domestic wastes. The astonishing figure of 773 million tons of waste produced every year can magically transform into 62.5 billion cubic meters of biogas, which is the equivalent of 31 billion tons of gasoline or diesel fuel or 106 gigawatt/hour of electric energy.

Unfortunately, this enormous potential still remains a potential and that is the problem. In Russia solid domestic wastes, up to 40% of which are easily degraded organic substances, are taken to dumps. The European Union has banned the dumping of domestic wastes in many of its countries because these wastes produce methane, a greenhouse gas.

It is a fact that 35 million tons of Russian solid domestic wastes can produce 2.1 billion cubic meters of biogas and 2.3 million tons of high-quality. Both products of microbial transformation can be successfully used in the municipal economy, but education.

about how to sort wastes is strongly needed among residents in order for such a program to be successful. Bioenergetics can have wide application throughout Russia, but success in this vein will greatly depend upon the cooperation of financial, intellectual and political sectors of the country.

Time (and energy) will tell.

M Dee Dubroff
Russian Innovations

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