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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pour Some Sugar in Me

That's the tune your car may be singing to you in the near future. While we all know revenge stories consisting of someone pouring sugar into an enemy's gas tank to ruin their engine, researchers have actually found a way to generate hydrogen directly from plant sugar. The hydrogen could provide a more environmentally friendly fuel cell power source.

Biochemical engineer Dr Percival Zhang, who leads the development team at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, US, said: "This is revolutionary work. This has opened up a whole new direction in hydrogen research. With technology improvement, sugar-powered vehicles could come true eventually. A sugar fueled car would be inherently safe because its hydrogen is used immediately, added Zhang,"it would also be cheaper and cleaner to run than even the most efficient petrol-driven car."

Unlike current bio-fuels, consisting of ethanol made by fermenting plant material, and burned in traditional internal combustion engines as alternatives to petrol and diesel, this new process involves combining plant sugars, water, and a cocktail of powerful enzymes - biological catalysts - to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Instead of a gas station, one might pick up some fuel pellets while at the grocery or hardware store. Convenience stores, which rely on gas customers purchasing high-margin items inside the store, could soon go the way of full-service pumps and service stations.

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