Japanese chemist finds way to improve production of clean energy using egg whites


A Japanese scientist says his team has hatched a way to improve production of carbon-free energy by using proteins taken from egg whites.

Yusuke Yamada, a professor at Osaka City University, said his team found a way to use the protein as a “tool” for producing hydrogen, a powerful source of clean electricity.

The new method “brings us closer to our ultimate goal of producing hydrogen from water,” Yamada said Thursday.

“This lays the groundwork for the clean production of hydrogen in the future,” the scientist added.

The fuel cell is known as a zero-emissions technology because only water and heat are released by the hydrogen and oxygen involved in the electrochemical process behind it.

Hydrogen is currently mass-produced using natural gas or fossil fuels, which themselves produce harmful emissions. But it can also be produced in labs without fossil fuels, and scientists have traditionally done this by initiating a special interaction of the molecules in liquid, explained Yamada.

But free-moving molecules and particles in the fluid can interfere with the process of producing hydrogen, and scientists have long searched for a way to immobilize them.

Yamada’s team used a protein found in egg to build crystals with lots of tiny holes to trap these particles. The change brought a sense of traffic control to the molecular interactions and improved the efficiency of clean hydrogen production, Yamada said.

“If you use hydrogen as an energy source, it only releases water in the environment. It is extremely environmentally friendly,” he said.

“We found protein was a useful tool” to generate hydrogen in a lab without using a fossil fuel, the professor said.

The world’s leading companies see hydrogen as the ultimate clean energy to power everything from cars to office buildings in the future, and are trying to ditch the fossil fuels that cause global warming.

Yamada’s method was published in the February edition of the scientific journal Applied Catalysis B.