High-Yield Hydrogen Production from Starch and Water by a Synthetic Enzymatic Pathway


Background. The future hydrogen economy offers a compelling energy vision, but there are four main obstacles: hydrogen production, storage, and distribution, as well as fuel cells. Hydrogen production from inexpensive abundant renewable biomass can produce cheaper hydrogen, decrease reliance on fossil fuels, and achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions, but current chemical and biological means suffer from low hydrogen yields and/or severe reaction conditions. Methodology/Principal Findings. Here we demonstrate a synthetic enzymatic pathway consisting of 13 enzymes for producing hydrogen from starch and water. The stoichiometric reaction is C₆H₁₀O₅ (l)+7 H₂O (l)-> 12 H₂ (g)+ 6 CO₂ (g). The overall process is spontaneous and unidirectional because of a negative Gibbs free energy and separation of the gaseous products with the aqueous reactants. Conclusions. Enzymatic hydrogen production from starch and water mediated by 13 enzymes occurred at 30 degrees C as expected, and the hydrogen yields were much higher than the theoretical limit (4 H(2)/glucose) of anaerobic fermentations. Significance. The unique features, such as mild reaction conditions (30 degrees C and atmospheric pressure), high hydrogen yields, likely low production costs ($~ to 2/kg H₂), and a high energy-density carrier starch (14.8 H₂-based mass%), provide great potential for mobile applications. With technology improvements and integration with fuel cells, this technology also solves the challenges associated with hydrogen storage, distribution, and infrastructure in the hydrogen economy.

Zhang, Y. H. P., Evans, B. R., Mielenz, J. R., Hopkins, R. C., & Adams, M. W. W. (2007). High-Yield Hydrogen Production from Starch and Water by a Synthetic Enzymatic Pathway. Plos One, 2(5), e456. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000456