COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Jan. 29, 2008 For most people, the name E. coli is synonymous with food poisoning and product recalls, but a professor in Texas A&M Universitys chemical engineering department envisions the bacteria as a future source of energy, helping to power our cars, homes and more.
By genetically modifying the bacteria, Thomas Wood, a professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, has tweaked a strain of E. coli so that it produces substantial amounts of hydrogen. Specifically, Woods strain produces 140 times more hydrogen than is created in a naturally occurring process, according to an article in Microbial Biotechnology, detailing his research.
Though Wood acknowledges that there is still much work to be done before his research translates into any kind of commercial application, his initial success could prove to be a significant stepping stone on the path to the hydrogen-based economy that many believe is in this countrys future.
Renewable, clean and efficient, hydrogen is the key ingredient in fuel-cell technology, which has the potential to power everything from portable electronics to automobiles and even entire power plants. Today, most of the hydrogen produced globally is created by a process known as cracking water through which hydrogen is separated from the oxygen. But the process is expensive and requires vast amounts of energy one of the chief reasons why the technology has yet to catch on.
Woods work with E. coli could change that.
While the public may be used to hearing about the very specific strain that can cause food poisoning in humans, most strains are common and harmless, even helping their hosts by preventing other harmful bacteria from taking root in the human intestinal tract.
And the use of E. coli in science is nothing new, having been used in the production of human insulin and in the development of vaccines.
But as a potential energy s
|Contact: Thomas Wood|
Texas A&M University