Hot-Wired Hydrogenase | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 46 | p. 45 | Concentrates
Issue Date: November 12, 2007

Hot-Wired Hydrogenase

Department: Science & Technology
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WIRED
Molecular model demonstrates how a carbon nanotube makes contact with hydrogenase's catalytic regions (green), permitting flow of electrons into or out of the enzyme while it works.
Credit: Nano Lett.
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WIRED
Molecular model demonstrates how a carbon nanotube makes contact with hydrogenase's catalytic regions (green), permitting flow of electrons into or out of the enzyme while it works.
Credit: Nano Lett.

When it comes to tapping into the power of hydrogen, nothing beats hydrogenase. But harnessing hydrogenase's catalytic powers requires establishing an electrical connection that doesn't compromise the enzyme's activity. Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., have now managed to do just that by using single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) as wires (Nano Lett., DOI: 10.1021/nl072319o). Michael J. Heben, Paul W. King, and colleagues found that surfactant-isolated SWNTs spontaneously assemble with hydrogenase to form a catalytically active biohybrid system (shown). Photoluminescence excitation and Raman spectroscopy indicate that the SWNTs behave like molecular wires, making electrical contact to the enzyme's catalytic regions (green). The nanotubes can shuttle electrons away as the enzyme oxidizes H2, or they can inject electrons into the system to reduce H+. The research team says the accomplishment represents a first step toward constructing hydrogenase-SWNT hybrids for H2-producing applications and fuel-cell technologies.

 
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