An Egg-citing Recipe For Carbon-Free Fuel

Scientists in Japan have taken a crack at clean hydrogen fuel production using egg whites.

AsianScientist (Feb. 22, 2018) – A team of researchers at the Osaka City University in Japan have developed a way to use egg whites as a substrate to produce a carbon-free fuel. They published their results in Applied Catalysis B.

Hydrogen is a promising fuel and energy storage medium because it does not emit greenhouse gases when used. Nevertheless, the process of hydrogen generation reactions usually require fossil fuels and emit carbon dioxide.

Photocatalysis is one method to generate hydrogen cleanly and efficiently using light. The precise positions of photosensitizers and catalytic elements within a photocatalytic unit has strong bearing over the efficiency of hydrogen production.

In this study, researchers led by Dr. Hiroyasu Tabe made use of proteins in egg whites as the substrate upon which hydrogen-generating chemical reactions could occur. The protein involved is lysozyme, and it forms porous lysozyme crystals.

“Lysozyme crystals have a highly ordered nanostructure and, thus, we can manipulate the molecular components when they accumulate in the crystals,” Tabe said, noting that the crystal structure can be easily analyzed with X-ray technology.

The researchers precisely manipulated the molecular components within the crystals using a method called cooperative immobilization. This was achieved by the application of rose bengal, which is commonly used as a dye in eye drops, to platinum nanoparticles. The dye entered the solvent channels in the lysozyme crystals and accelerated the hydrogen evolution reaction when the crystal was exposed to light. This was possible because the functional molecules and nanoparticles could be accumulated within the crystals’ inner spaces.

“These results suggest that porous protein crystals are promising platforms to periodically and rationally accumulate catalytic components by using molecular interactions,” Tabe said.

The article can be found at: Tabe et al. (2018) Photocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution Systems Constructed in Cross-linked Porous Protein Crystals.


Source: Osaka City University; Photo: Pexels.
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