a bacterial relative of tuberculosis known as Mycobacterium smegmatis You can pull off some incredibly impressive tricks. When fuel is scarce, it can absorb trace amounts of hydrogen in the atmosphere and surrounding water and convert it into energy. Simply put, it turns air into electricity.
Unlike its notorious cousin, M. smegmatis Nonpathogenic and literally common in soil In the world— from volcanic craters to Antarctic climates to the deepest ocean depths.This ubiquity and elasticity is due in part to its ability to absorb trace amounts of hydrogen for nutrition. However, as a new paper published in Nature A puzzle has finally been solved, revealing what could usher in a revolutionary new era of clean energy.
Researchers at the Institute for Biomedical Discovery, Monash University in Australia, M. smegmatisA unique enzyme called “Huc” allows hydrogen to be converted into electricity. “Huc is very efficient,” explains Chris Greening, co-lead of the study and professor of microbiology. in a statement last week. “Unlike all other known enzymes and chemical catalysts, it also consumes hydrogen below atmospheric levels, which is only 0.00005% of the air we breathe.”
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To isolate and identify a previously unknown enzyme, researchers utilized cryo-electron microscopy. It fired electrons into a frozen Huc sample to map its atomic structure and electrical pathways. Another approach, known as electrochemistry, has allowed researchers to demonstrate that purified enzymes can generate electricity with only minute concentrations of hydrogen. From there, researchers explained By immobilizing Huc on an electrode, its electrons can then be transferred to an electrical circuit to generate an electric current.
It’s still early days, but researchers hope that the newly isolated Huc enzyme will one day be able to grow on a large scale. M. smegmatis It can be easily grown in large numbers within a laboratory setting. Moreover, this ability is not only his Huc.according to Monash researchers, 60–80% of soil bacteria have similar enzymes that collectively absorb 70 million tons of hydrogen per year. Further study of these enzymes may provide insight into how atmospheric conditions can be stabilized in the face of climate change.
But before this, natural Huc batteries could be harnessed like solar cells to eventually power smartwatches, computers, and even cars. “If you produce enough Huc, the sky will literally be the limit for using it to produce clean energy.” co-chair of the study said Last week, Rhys Grinter, research fellow and co-lead researcher at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.