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Biohydrogen: an Alternative Biofuel for Environmental Wellness

Biohydrogen: an Alternative Biofuel for Environmental Wellness

Explore Biohydrogen: the clean, high-energy biofuel of the future. No CO2 emissions, challenges addressed, ongoing research for commercial production.

Mr. Prathamesh Kale, Dr. Ashwini Puntambekar
August, 03 2023
1683

The world has been struggling with the severe issue of an energy crisis for a very long time now. This is mostly due to the diminishing availability of the most common fossil fuel supplies. The reserves of traditional fuel sources are rapidly running out, imposing a serious danger to global energy security.

In the gradual process of finding the solutions for these issues, our researchers introduced the concept of biofuel i.e., the organic generation of fuel without exploiting the natural resources. One of the revolutionary innovations led to the generation of Biohydrogen. The ability of biohydrogen to supply all of the world's energy demands makes it one of the promising alternatives to conventional sources. In other words, it might be referred to as a crucial fuel in the upcoming future.

As a biofuel, biohydrogen is being generated on a commercial scale. It is an advanced form of fuel that is produced using living biomass or organisms.

Due to its high energy density and annual production of 55 million tonnes, hydrogen is a crucial environmentally friendly industrial feedstock. For this reason, the market for hydrogen is expected to expand by up to 10% annually and reach approximately $191.80 billion by 2024.

What makes Hydrogen the best option among the Biofuels?

Following are some of the salient features of this biofuel that might amaze you.

  • Biohydrogen has 3X higher energy density than that of our conventional automobile fuels like petrol and diesel.
  • It is a clean environmentally friendly fuel that can be easily created from several types of biomass, including biological waste, making it quite popular.
  • Its efficiency in offering energy is way more than the other modern fuel options.
  • It leaves no harmful byproduct to add to the already existing heap of pollutants. The only thing which is yielded at the time of its combustion is water.
  • Other than being highly combustible, it also serves the role of an energy carrier.
  • Biohydrogen can be a commendable transport fuel.

How Biohydrogen is generated?

The accessibility and availability of biofuels makes them a better choice over other contemporary fuels. It is easier to attain hydrogen as a fuel from sustainable elements such as

  • by solar thermal splitting of the water molecules
  • with the natural process occurring in biomass
  • by the biological fission of water molecule

Further, there are two typical ways of generating biohydrogen: Production via fermentation and via biophotolysis.

Via Fermentation

The first thing that comes to mind when we discuss fermentation is bacteria. The creation of biohydrogen in this instance also needs a few specialized microorganisms, including bacteria.

  • Photo Fermentation: As the name implies, the process uses photon or light-trapping photosynthetic microorganisms. The bacterium solely uses photosystem-I to produce hydrogen during the biological process. Additionally, for the splitting of water molecules, these photosynthetic organisms require a few organic acids like acetic acid and additional light sources.
  • Dark Fermentation: Light is not necessary for dark fermentation. Carbohydrates and other organic substances are used as the substrate in this rather complex process. This might include the component like cellulose, glucose, and starch.

Via Biophotolysis:

This technique utilizes photoautotrophic microbes like Microalgae and Cyanobacteria. During photosynthesis, they separate water into hydrogen ions and electrons.

Ferredoxins are used for transferring electrons. And then enzymes called Fe-Fe-hydrogenases unite them to form hydrogen gas.

These microbes use CO2 as for carbon source and consume energy from light. Due to this, the process of biophotolysis for biohydrogen production needs to be performed anaerobically.

Biohydrogen Cycle

Is Biohydrogen good in all ways?

Present challenges with this biofuel include the following aspects:

  • Difficulty in day-to-day utilization.
  • Rapidly move from atmosphere to space.
  • Storage of biohydrogen can be a hectic task.
  • The competitive technology for the manufacture of biofuel has a cost ceiling.

However, research is in progress to resolve these limitations.

What might affect the production of biohydrogen?

Temperature, pH range, partial pressure, and hydraulic retention are some common factors that are kept in check during the production of biohydrogen.

It has been observed that the thermophilic bacteria yield more hydrogen fuel than the mesophilic ones. Similarly, most of the hydrogen-producing microorganism work optimally between the pH range of 5.5-6.0. One also needs to maintain a low partial pressure for better yield.

What is the future of Biohydrogen?

Biohydrogen is a promising candidate as a biofuel with no carbon dioxide emissions and high energy density. Currently, it has limitations that prevent it from revolutionizing humanity. However, numerous investigations and pioneering technological developments are on-going to enhance its production and availability.

Potential areas for advancement include the application of oxygen-tolerant hydrogenase, greater yields of hydrogen with a limited substrate, and development of practical technology for commercial production.

 

Authors:

Mr. Prathamesh Kale, Dr. Ashwini Puntambekar, Dr. Viniti Vaidya & Dr. Manjusha Dake

Dr. D. Y. Patil Biotechnology and Bioinformatics Institute,

Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University)

Tathawade, Pune - 411033, Maharashtra, India.

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