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Enzyme Offers Hope for Limitless Green Energy

The enzyme in question is called Huc (pronounced “Huck”). It’s made by bacteria, and helps them with growth and survival in soil, in the oceans, in volcanic craters, and even Antarctica.

Scientists have now discovered it can make electricity from thin air.


A map of the atomic structure of the Huc enzyme
A map of the atomic structure of the Huc enzyme | Credit: Rhys Grinter

Microbiologists at Australia’s Monash University have uncovered a ‘natural battery’ enzyme that could prove to be the holy grail of clean energy. They discovered it consumes trace hydrogen from the atmosphere to generate an electrical current, which the bacteria use as an energy source to help them thrive in hostile environments, including volcanic craters and deep in the ocean.


“We've known for some time that bacteria can use the trace hydrogen in the air as a source of energy,” says Professor Greening of the Biomedicine Discovery Institute. “But we didn't know how they did this, until now.”


Scientists believe the enzyme could be used initially to run small electronic devices using air or low doses of hydrogen. Supplementing with more hydrogen would, in theory, mean more power.


“Once we produce Huc in sufficient quantities, the sky is quite literally the limit for using it to produce clean energy,” said project lead Dr Rhys Grinter.


The important discovery is outlined in a new edition of the journal Nature. The research team was led by Monash’s Dr Rhys Grinter, PhD student Ashleigh Kropp, and Professor Chris Greening, from the Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

 
Illustration of Earth's core

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