Microbiologists at Nanologix, Inc., a nano-biotechnology company engaged in the research, development and commercialization of technologies for alternative sources of fuel, have succeeded in increasing the output from their hydrogen bioreactors by using a new nutrient mix.
NanoLogix uses a fermentative approach to the microbial production of hydrogen. In a natural fermentative process, some of the hydrogen output from hydrogen-producing bacteria (Clostridia) would be used (inter-species transfer) by methane-producing bacteria (methanogens) in the inoculum. This results in lowered usable hydrogen output.
NanoLogix devised a heat-based process to reduce or eliminating the methanogens, thereby increasing the yield of hydrogen. NanoLogix bacteria now metabolize sugars and convert them into carbon dioxide and hydrogen at a 1:1 ratio. The carbon dioxide is then removed by passing the gas mixture through a concentrated solution of sodium hydroxide, leaving behind pure hydrogen.
Now, NanoLogix team is using a new nutrient mix that combines switchgrass—a which is also often-discussed as a potential biofuel crop for cellulosic ethanol—and a solution of 3% grape juice waste. Combining the two nutrient sources increased the gas production of the bacteria 3-fold over just using switchgrass or grape juice waste alone.
NanoLogix concludes that the addition of sugars (fructose and glucose) from the grape juice waste to the nutrients in the switchgrass creates an optimal nutrient mixture for the proprietary microbiological methodology to thrive and thus produce large amounts of hydrogen.
To produce this hydrogen, the nutrient mixture is first prepared by a simple proprietary pre-preparation process. It is then pumped into a continuous feed, multi-channel, closed bioreactor containing immobilized cultures. The bacteria use the nutrient media in their normal metabolism and produce a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide gas. The gases are then passed through a sodium hydroxide solution, which combines with the carbon dioxide and removes it from the system. The hydrogen gas which remains is pumped into a storage container or immediately used for fuel.
The system is flexible and can be adapted for numerous other kinds of biomass, such as corn, wastewater or waste byproducts. The bacteria required to drive hydrogen production in the bioreactor can be easily cultured in any laboratory and used immediately. NanoLogix sees no need to alter the genome of the organism so it can be used in industrial processes.
The closed bioreactor system is also virtually self-maintaining. By using a continuous feed bioreactor, nutrients are continually fed to the bacteria, and wastes are continually flushed out of the system. This allows the organisms to sustain their growth and metabolic processes, which in turn means they are constantly producing hydrogen gas that can be used for fuel. The channels of the bioreactor can easily be changed if they become contaminated or the bacterial cultures happen to die out.
NanoLogix is presently operating a hydrogen bioreactor at Welch’s Food and has recently signed an agreement with the City of Erie Wastewater Treatment Plant for a prototype bioreactor installation. (Earlier post.)