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Researcher Exploring Microbial Conversion of Rotten Peaches to Hydrogen

A biosystems engineer at Clemson University (South Carolina) is investigating the use of Thermotoga neapolitana—an extremophile bacterium that can produce hydrogen by fermentation—to produce hydrogen from rotten peaches.

The South Carolina Peach Council is funding research by Caye Drapcho and graduate assistant Abhiney Jain. There are more than 200 million pounds of peaches harvested annually in South Carolina—the nation’s second largest peach producer behind California—and approximately 20 million pounds of peaches are discarded yearly, according to the Peach Council. Peach waste has substantial organic value with a high percentage of sugars that can be converted to hydrogen gas by bacteria.

This microbe produces gas byproducts that can contain as much as 80 percent hydrogen, though typically it produces hydrogen in the 25 percent to 30 percent range, which is still impressive.

—Caye Drapcho

T. neopolitana is an extremophilic bacterium first isolated and described in 1986 as coming from the vicinity of a black smoker in the bay of Naples, Italy. Although virtually all members of the Thermotogales order had earlier been reported to be anaerobes, recent work done by researchers suggests that most of them can tolerate low levels of oxygen (microaerobes).

This finding is somewhat contended by other research (Eriksen, Nielsen and Inversen) that found that while T. neapolitana tolerates low oxygen conditions, the hydrogen yield was not improved under these microaerobic conditions.

Drapcho has been selected for Sun Grant funding for her work as well.




What about a flat out conversion to ethanol or butenol? If peaches have that high of a sugar content, and the 20 million pounds of peaches would go to waste anyway, why not convert them to ethanol? Seems like that would be a much easier process, akin to sugar beets or sugar cane conversion.

Reminds me of a song though.

Million of peaches, peaches for me,
Millions of peaches, peaches for free...

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Happy Holidays,

Mark A

Cosmo, I think the specifics of the story imply that hydrogen is produced through a microbial bacterial action, with little to no energy input, as opposed to fermenting and distilling to make ethanol (gasohol). In that regard, this is encouraging news.

I still feel the hydrogen economy is our future, supplemented by wind solar and nuclear power, over the current carbon based power which includes ethanol (gasohol).


==This finding is somewhat contended by other research (Eriksen, Nielsen and Inversen) that found that while T. neapolitana tolerates low oxygen conditions, the hydrogen yield was not improved under these microaerobic conditions.==

Thank you for doing your homework.

Roger Pham

I like hydrogen.


Speaking of "low-hanging fruit" for the energy transition...


Another form of solar energy...plant growth and sugar production are energy conversions and now we decide what to do with the final product.


Mark A,

I did understand that the point of this article was about the low energy process of creating hydrogen, and like you I do agree that at the end of the day, the hydrogen economy is what we should strive for.

Maybe I should have been more specific, but the comment I was trying to make is that since the conversion process to hydrogen is not ready for "prime time" yet, creating ethanol out of a readily available waste product seems like a reasonable step that can be achieved right now.

Anyway, not really arguing with you, just trying to clarify my point.



I think this is already being done by Nanologix (NNLX). They have a hydrogen production process from sugar and another great biotech product.

"NanoLogix is presently operating a hydrogen bioreactor at Welch's Foods near Erie Pennsylvania (Video) and has signed an agreement with the City of Erie Wastewater Treatment Plant for a prototype bioreactor installation based upon NanoLogix's patents and designed to extract hydrogen from activated sewage sludge." Why not use the same for peaches?

Web site:


Combustion of methanol leads to the fromation of CO2 ,which is a green house gas.
So its better to produce H2.
Even I am working on production of hydrogen but from domestic waste.

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