A recent study showed that a nanoreactor can create biofuel using viruses. Trevor Douglas, a member of the team that led the research, explains that they have worked with a particle that resembles a virus. The said particle, in a controlled environment, can produce a catalytic reaction that results in the making of hydrogen.
A nanoreactor’s basic functioning principle is taking a virus that exists in nature, disassemble it layer by layer, remove the harmful part that makes the virus dangerous, and then reassembling it by keeping a single enzyme molecule that is then wrapped with protein layers.
What Trevor Douglas’ team did was to modify the enzyme of an E-coli bacterium and then insert it in the protein capsule of a different kind of virus. By combining them, the team managed to create hydrogen from protons, just like trees produce oxygen from carbon dioxide. This is possible because the particle feeds on protons that interact with the hydrogenase, thus producing hydrogen.
The E-coli bacterium used in the experiment is the one responsible for food poisoning. Though there are many strains of the said bacterium, some being actually harmless. The Escherichia Coli can be found in various environments from door handles to food, to animal paws, or even your phone’s case. This means that everything that is needed to duplicate the experiment can be found at the reach of a hand.
The costs of reproducing the experiment are minimal, Trevour Douglas explained. Mas reproduction can be achieved because the process can be achieved by simple fermentation. On another plus side, all of the materials are biodegradable, making everything Eco-friendly.
The advantages of such a technology are great. The biofuel that is obtained in this process can be used as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels that pollute the environment and are, sadly, also depleting. The cost of making and distributing the biofuel are more advantageous than those used for oil, coal and other fossil fuels that we rely on today.
Apart for being used for its ability to produce energy, the process can also be employed in the production of water. The advantages of using it are obvious. It can change the future of the energy requirements of our planet. Not to mention the fact that this is the sort of “easy-to-produce” fuel that can be included in future space explorations.
Who would have thought that the viruses that we try so hard to eradicate would end up to be used as an essential part of a technology that might save the planet?
Image source: www.dreamstime.com