I had blogged about this topic back in September 2006, but I want to follow up on this subject since it one day may offer a valuable alternative to what is available today.
The Department of Chemistry at Oxford University has discovered a biologically-based fuel cell (biofuel cell) that uses air spiked with 3-percent hydrogen to create electricity. The biofuel cell uses one of the Earth’s oldest life forms, R. metallidurans hydrogenase to replace the expensive platinum used in most operational fuel cells today.
Besides the low cost of the biofuel cell, the other advantages of using the hydrogenase to metabolize small amounts of hydrogen and create electricity are safety and less chance for contamination. Because only small amounts of hydrogen are used in the air mixture, the possibility of combustion is almost non-existent. In addition, this particular kind of R. metallidurans hydrogenase is resistant to contamination.
Other scientists have been working on biofuel cells for years, but Dr. Fraser Armstrong and his team at Oxford have uniquely discovered particular enzymes and bacteria that are tolerant to oxygen, making them idea for fuel cell development. With the price of platinum more expensive that gold and the world in short supply, alternatives such as oxygen-resistant biofuel cells offers a chance to decrease the price dramatically for hydrogen fuel cells as world demand increases.