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MIT Researchers Harness Viruses To Split Water

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the but-it's-harmless-trust-us dept.

Biotech 347

ByronScott writes "A team of researchers at MIT has just announced that they have successfully modified a virus to split apart molecules of water, paving the way for an efficient and non-energy-intensive method of producing hydrogen fuel. 'The team, led by Angela Belcher, the Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering, engineered a common, harmless bacterial virus called M13 so that it would attract and bind with molecules of a catalyst (the team used iridium oxide) and a biological pigment (zinc porphyrins). The viruses became wire-like devices that could very efficiently split the oxygen from water molecules. Over time, however, the virus-wires would clump together and lose their effectiveness, so the researchers added an extra step: encapsulating them in a microgel matrix, so they maintained their uniform arrangement and kept their stability and efficiency.'"

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347 comments

Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821072)

I can just see it now. Some of these get dropped into an ocean, multiply, and eventually deconstruct the majority of the world's water into oxygen and hydrogen. It's the end of the world!!

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821124)

kinda like ice-nine, but backwards?

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (2, Informative)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about 4 years ago | (#31821190)

Viruses can't multiply by themselves, they have no DNA. They'd have to infect something first and convince it to do the work. Since there probably won't be any fish left in the sea soon [bbc.co.uk], it isn't going to happen.

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (4, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 4 years ago | (#31821530)

Hey guess what Mr. Gloom & Doom: the P-Tr extinction about 250 million years ago killed 96% of all marine species without our help, and you know how empty the oceans are now? Oh, that's right, speciation naturally filled the hole, once again without our help. If the environment changes and things die, whatever doesn't die will change to meet the needs of the new environment so long as there are resources to consume. The end.

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 4 years ago | (#31821658)

That's fine -- but 6.8 billion of us don't want to risk homo sapiens being on the "extinct" list.

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 4 years ago | (#31821748)

So you think freezing the biosphere forever is really the answer? Environmental changes have given successively more and more advanced biospheres, but you would stop that just because you're afraid of how things might be different? You do realize that regardless of whether such an effort is successful or not (it literally can't be, but we'll let that aside), homo sapiens will eventually become extinct. If you can't rationally face the mortality of the species, can you rationally face your own mortality?

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (1)

wolfsdaughter (1081205) | about 4 years ago | (#31821670)

Didn't it take a VERY LONG TIME for repopulation to happen... ?

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (4, Funny)

schon (31600) | about 4 years ago | (#31821692)

Didn't it take a VERY LONG TIME for repopulation to happen... ?

Well it couldn't have taken that long.. after all, the earth is only 6000 years old!
 
/me ducks

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (2, Informative)

gilleain (1310105) | about 4 years ago | (#31821536)

What? Of course viruses have DNA (or RNA) otherwise there would be nothing to replicate...

Of course, there is also the mimivirus, with 1,000 genes that produces its own virion factory in the cell, so that it doesn't even have to put its genes into the cell nucleus.

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (2, Informative)

winomonkey (983062) | about 4 years ago | (#31821662)

The key term that they used in the article was "bacterial virus", which is also known as a bacteriophage, which is a virus that acts specifically on a bacterial host. Fish may come and go, but bacteria will be around for a wee bit yet. However, there is still the issue that the virus itself does not "split water", but merely serves as scaffolding for the other components in the process.

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (4, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | about 4 years ago | (#31821212)

first it's not the virus that is doing anything. it's just a scaffold. the virus just self-assembles the scaffold for you. the interior DNA / RNA is irrelevant.

that said, the design for the self assembly and display is in the virus DNA I believe. so given a host to express itself in, it could presumably reproduce this in the wild. it would not be any use to the virus. But you could imagine that some host cell might harness the virus to make hydrogen for it's own purposes.

So I suspect that if this gets loose in the wild that the virus won't keep this trait long enough for some host cell to adapt to taking advantage of it.

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (4, Funny)

Tiger4 (840741) | about 4 years ago | (#31821296)

Just don't get any on your skin.

"Gas bag science researchers exploding with good news. Film at eleven!"

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (-1, Redundant)

Angst Badger (8636) | about 4 years ago | (#31821320)

Hey, at least it's not Ice-Nine!

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821742)

Why is parent modded redundundant?

I thought it was +1 funny, because, you know, ice nine also "destroyed" all the water, but in a different way, so saying "atlest it's not ice nine" is funny, because that would imply it's not as bad, when in fact it would be as bad. Funny, because it's not true, if you think a bout it a little. (Very little, but still.) So, in conclusion, I think it was unfair to mod parent redundant, because of everything I explained up to recapping it in the conclusion, which is still on-going in this centense right here. (I'm being redeundant on purpose. (Because I think it is funny in this context.))

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (5, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#31821330)

Even if viruses could reproduce without a host (they can't), when oxygen mixes with hydrogen, the hydrogen oxidizes (burns) instantly. The exhaust from burning hydrogen is water.

Sheesh, I knew that in the 7th grade. [slashdot.org] I almost got expelled from school for knowing it...

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (0, Troll)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | about 4 years ago | (#31821400)

It would balance out the effect of the sea level rising from global warming. Plus lots of hydrogen!

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (1)

arielCo (995647) | about 4 years ago | (#31821462)

Oxygen and hydrogen? Nothing a lit match can't fix. A bit of global warming ensues, but hey...

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 4 years ago | (#31821576)

Yes. Just like petroleum eating bacteria right? No wait those are known since like the 70s and we still have oil.

Re:Hopefully they aren't too effective.. (1)

Hylandr (813770) | about 4 years ago | (#31821750)

I was fearing the same thing.

You can't control mutation. What happens if the virus mutates, spreads through the air and oceans dividing Hydrogen from Oxygen? Besides being toxic to breathe, one good spark in either cloud could ignite fireballs ranging in size from annoying to devastating explosions to the atmosphere about the globe igniting. Welcome to new Mars.

It begs the question in our research on mars though, what kind of evidence would such an action leave behind? Have we been looking for that in our efforts on the red planet? Would there be a 'chemical trail' we could detect? White powder just beneath the red soil?

Do I need some tinfoil? or should we really be worried?

- Dan.

Personally... (-1, Flamebait)

monoi (811392) | about 4 years ago | (#31821082)

...I think millions of rogue strands of the same basic stuff that codes for our existence, is a perfectly sensible thing to start making machines out of. And when that stuff randomly and regularly mutates, and is known to put its own survival above our own, even better!

Re:Personally... (2, Funny)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31821294)

Yes. Whoever thought it was a good idea to domesticate animals really started us down a slippery slope of genetic modification that will *clearly* lead to our inevitable doom and/or the apocalypse.

Re:Personally... (4, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 4 years ago | (#31821452)

ATTN: All people including parent who don't understand how long and with how much effort a virus needs to effectively cross barriers between species of hosts (let alone viruses like these that affect prokaryotic bacteria jumping to fucking eukaryotic animals! Are you kidding me?)

Please STFU. You paranoia is sourced in horror movies and cheap sci-fi novellas. Go read about real microbiology. Thanks.

Re:Personally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821532)

Move to a place where evolution isn't recognized and you won't have to worry about that sort of thing!

What could possibly go wrong? (0, Flamebait)

jnaujok (804613) | about 4 years ago | (#31821102)

A self-catalyzing, replicating virus that converts water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Please don't spill this into the ocean.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821134)

Why, you just have to lit a match, problem solved.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (-1, Redundant)

1984 (56406) | about 4 years ago | (#31821172)

Ever hear of Ice Nine? This sounds like much more fun.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Altus (1034) | about 4 years ago | (#31821196)

from the sounds of it, without the proper conditions it will clump up and stop functioning. Still, caution would seem to be the best possible idea.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (2, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 4 years ago | (#31821236)

If the net effect is a positive for the virus, the behavior would have evolved on it's own in nature. If it's a negative, the virus will be out competed by other viruses. Even if it's neutral, it will at most fulfill its current niche and the water splitting abilities will be lost to genetic drift since it doesn't convey any advantage. In other words: Nothing is going to go wrong, control your irrational fears of genetic engineering and biotechnology.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821334)

If the net effect is a positive for the virus, the behavior would have evolved on it's own in nature.

Evolution does not guarantee that any given mutation will occur.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821616)

If the net effect is a positive for the virus, the behavior would have evolved on it's own in nature.

This statement seems to imply that all possible positive characteristics for a virus have already evolved. That's is quite a statement, much like someone saying that all possible inventions have already been invented. To me it seems quite absurd. In any case, what's good for a virus, may not be necessarily good for other living things, such as humans.

 

Nothing is going to go wrong, control your irrational fears of genetic engineering and biotechnology.

Oh, I see, you're just trolling. Carry on.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (2, Insightful)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | about 4 years ago | (#31821250)

Sure, except for this bit:

Over time, however, the virus-wires would clump together and lose their effectiveness, so the researchers added an extra step: encapsulating them in a microgel matrix, so they maintained their uniform arrangement and kept their stability and efficiency.

If this virus ever got loose it would no longer be inside the microgel matrix, so it would soon lose its efficiency at generating hydrogen, becoming just another virus among many—and one ill-adapted to survive outside a lab.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 4 years ago | (#31821344)

self-catalyzing?? Where did you get that idea?

RTFS:

attract and bind with molecules of a catalyst (the team used iridium oxide)

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#31821402)

1. it's not self-catalyzing, it takes iridium oxide which is what you might call highly uncommon (though they implied there might be others, but if they needed to start with Ir02 the list must have been very very short)

2. they didn't say under what conditions it reproduces, but i wouldn't be surprised if the open ocean isn't its best culture medium, or even a decent one

3. in order to get it to work for any sort of duration they had to encase the virus in a gel. now, unless they plan to mutate the virus to produce its own gel, or not to need the gel, it's not going to threaten very much of any body of water

4. we could use a little more oxygen, as ours is being bound up into CO2 by people who persist in believing that burning coal & oil is a god-given right

Hmm... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821144)

engineered a common, harmless bacterial virus

I am not a scientist, but isn't this how every zombie movie starts out? Today we get hydrogen fuel; tomorrow we get zombie outbreaks. At least we can use the fuel to escape, I guess.

Re:Hmm... (2, Funny)

nizo (81281) | about 4 years ago | (#31821338)

Actually the water in the zombies will all get broken down into hydrogen and oxygen so we're good.

My new car runs on zombies!

End of the world? (1, Funny)

Manip (656104) | about 4 years ago | (#31821158)

Let's hope these don't spread into the ocean turning it into a toxic gas that will wipe out most life on earth...

There has got to be a missing step (3, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 4 years ago | (#31821162)

It still takes energy to split the molecule, and it has to come from somewhere, even if viruses to the dirty work.

Re:There has got to be a missing step (4, Informative)

jmauro (32523) | about 4 years ago | (#31821262)

They're using the virus to bring together the components and then using sunlight to power the split and the biological components. It's like photosynthsis with H20 instead of CO2. Kind of novel, but who knows if it'll work on an industrial scale. It's just a lab experiment for now.

read the article, energy comes from the sun (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 4 years ago | (#31821310)

They're basically doing a form of artificial photosynthesis.

Bacterial virus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821164)

I've never heard something like this, is it half alive?

Re:Bacterial virus? (3, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | about 4 years ago | (#31821270)

That's right. It's the scientist speak for zombies. Can't call it zombies, though, cuz they'd get sued by the Hollywood IP zombies.

Re:Bacterial virus? (1)

Linzer (753270) | about 4 years ago | (#31821442)

I've never heard something like this, is it half alive?

They mean a virus that typically infects bacteria.

Hollywood, are you listening? (5, Funny)

Angst Badger (8636) | about 4 years ago | (#31821166)

Despite the self-limiting nature of the technique they describe, whether it ends up working in production or not, I guarantee you that, in a matter of days, someone is going to be flogging a script around Hollywood studios about a runaway virus destroying all the water on earth and the team of hot, young scientists who save the day at the last possible minute by using something compounded from randomly selected Greek and Latin roots.

Re:Hollywood, are you listening? (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#31821478)

they're going to have to make mine first

it's about a virus that mutates into other viruses and the team of young, hot scientists (i see angelina jolie as their mentor, Doctor Y) can only stop it by developing a virus to infect the virus ...half tempted not to post this, because now that i think of it, it's a killer idea for a spec script...

What could ... (0, Redundant)

daveime (1253762) | about 4 years ago | (#31821188)

... possibly go wrong.

Viruses have a tendency to mutate. Human body 90% water. All we need is one virus to mutate and start using carbon as a catalyst, and we all become walking bombs.

Re:What could ... (4, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | about 4 years ago | (#31821348)

Impossible. You need energy input to split water. No amount of catalysts can help you - first law of thermodynamics comes to rescue, as usual.

Re:What could ... (1)

mayko (1630637) | about 4 years ago | (#31821504)

The human body has no thermal energy? Ahh... thats why I have to lay in the sun to get my body temp up to ~98 F (~36C).

Re:What could ... (4, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | about 4 years ago | (#31821568)

Now the second law comes to the rescue - you need temperature gradients to extract energy.

Re:What could ... (3, Funny)

snarkh (118018) | about 4 years ago | (#31821358)

Since the viruses use sunlight to convert water, all we would need to do is to stay in a dark room.

A large tin foil hat can also be used.

WCPGW (0, Flamebait)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 4 years ago | (#31821194)

If ever a story screamed for the "What Could Possibly Go Wrong" tag.

Re:WCPGW (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 4 years ago | (#31821716)

It is self limiting.

If you can't keep the hydrogen and oxygen separated they will just reform as water again perhaps killing the virus in the process.

huh? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 4 years ago | (#31821204)

They also need to find a way to transform the products of the reaction into usable hydrogen fuel – currently the hydrogen atoms are split into constituent protons and electrons that must be recombined into complete atoms and molecules.

What's up with this? Last time I checked, a naked proton will find an electron, combine into hydrogen and then form up with other hydrogen atoms into H2 spontaneously. Perhaps, they meant the hydrogen spontaneously recombines with the Oxygen released when water is split.

Re:huh? (1)

jmauro (32523) | about 4 years ago | (#31821350)

A "naked" single protons is always a hydrogen atom regardless of the presence or lack there of of an electron.

They're quite electrically unstable and will bind to just about anything with a free electron or two to spare. Not just other hydrogen molocules.

Right, but... (1)

sean.peters (568334) | about 4 years ago | (#31821562)

... this still seems like a pretty trivial problem to solve. I would imagine that the vast majority of these free protons would more-or-less immediately hook up with a passing water molecule to form a hydronium ion. Put a pair of electrodes in the water, run a small amount of current through it. The H3O+ ions will be attracted to the negative pole, start soaking up electrons, and... instant hydrogen, right? And the amount of electricity required would be way less than straight up electrolysis, since the only bond you would need to break would be the loose connection between the spare proton and the water molecule.

The really interesting question, though... is this process EVER going to be able to beat regular old electrolysis in terms of cost-effectiveness? Indium don't come cheap.

Is this basic, applied or vaporware research? (5, Interesting)

GAATTC (870216) | about 4 years ago | (#31821226)

Press release stories like this should get a special Slashdot category - something like scientific vaporware. While this is potentially an important discovery, none of the information needed to determine if this could ever be an energetically or economically viable way of producing hydrogen is provided. I split water into hydrogen and oxygen every day when I run gels in my lab. The energy you could potentially get from the hydrogen that this electrolysis produces is smaller than the amount of energy it takes to run the gel. Basic research is cool and all (so cool it's what I do for a living), but without more data I would guess that this discovery is very much on the basic end of the basic-->applied research spectrum. Discoveries like this are made all the time - only a tiny fraction end up being useful in real life.

Re:Is this basic, applied or vaporware research? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 4 years ago | (#31821406)

Probably just vaporware.

They also need to find a way to transform the products of the reaction into usable hydrogen fuel – currently the hydrogen atoms are split into constituent protons and electrons that must be recombined into complete atoms and molecules.

That doesn't make too much sense, but if it's correct, they are splitting water into mono-atomic hydrogen and mono-atomic oxygen, which will spontaneously recombine into H2O if it's not kept separated. Keeping the hydrogen and oxygen separate is a big problem. (without expending more energy to push stuff through barriers.)

No, they harness catalysts to split water (5, Informative)

jfengel (409917) | about 4 years ago | (#31821238)

The actual splitting of water is done by using a pigment to absorb sunlight, then transferring the energy to indium oxide as a catalyst to split water. That's old news. Good, but old.

The problem is that it's hard to keep them doing this efficiently; things tend to clump up. They came up with a way to use viruses to make a structure that keeps everything separate. Viruses are good for building self-assembling structures; this is also old news in nanotech.

Putting it all together here, that's news, but not terribly exciting news, since it's all still in a lab and not scaled to industrial sizes. So the PR department buffs it up with a misleading headline about viruses splitting water.

So no, you don't have to worry about the virus eating the world. It's all about indium oxide, which is not self-replicating. The viruses are just a piece of the machinery.

Re:No, they harness catalysts to split water (4, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 4 years ago | (#31821508)

Hey, this is Slashdot. Stop depressing us with your world's-not-going-to-end attitude.

Re:No, they harness catalysts to split water (1)

Orleron (835910) | about 4 years ago | (#31821704)

Moreover, Indium is an element in short supply on the earth, so good luck getting enough to make this viable. Another catalyst perhaps?

Re:No, they harness catalysts to split water (1)

junglebeast (1497399) | about 4 years ago | (#31821646)

This little comment of yours is more informative than the article which was originally linked to.

It also does not contain nonsensical statements like this:

"Splitting water is one way to solve the basic problem of solar energy: It’s only available when the sun shines."

It is really a sunlight + water - hydrogen device (4, Informative)

bbn (172659) | about 4 years ago | (#31821246)

Before anyone more think this will split water molecules magically. It also requires a catalyst, so it will not spread by itself in the ocean.

Missing totally from the article, is any hard numbers about efficiency. Is it converting solar energy at 1%, 10%, 20% ? How is compared to PV-cells? If it is anywhere near, it could be very neat to get your solar energy as hydrogen instead of electricity. Hydrogen can be stored and converted to electricity when you need it.

am I missing something? (1)

greywire (78262) | about 4 years ago | (#31821260)

In the article its says they split hydrogen into protons and electrons that need to be recombined into atoms and molecules..

Am I missing something basic about chemistry and physics or are the writers of the article just mucking up the information? Aren't they just splitting hydrogen from oxygen using H20 as the "fuel" and sun light as the energy?

This is solar energy (5, Informative)

Linzer (753270) | about 4 years ago | (#31821274)

Some important information is missing from the summary. The viruses don't do the splitting. They profide a scaffold for the synthetic catalyst (iridium oxyde here) which catalyzes dissociation of water by sunlight. So this is a form of solar energy using a clever catalytic nanomaterial, not some mysterious virus-based energy as the summary makes it sound.

Re:This is solar energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821336)

Mod parent up, please. Summary is misleading.

Re:This is solar energy (1)

CyprusBlue113 (1294000) | about 4 years ago | (#31821652)

Translation: we looked at plants, and decided that trying to use some kind of bio lattice with catalizers on top to utilize the energy of sunlight to convert something common to something useful seemed like a good idea.

will make a great Cat's Cradle - like SF story. (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | about 4 years ago | (#31821282)

Virus multiplies, converts *all* water on the Earth into a hydrogen ... All life on the Earth disappeared except for the hydrogen-powered vehicles which evolve into intelligent beings.

Desalination (4, Interesting)

SoTerrified (660807) | about 4 years ago | (#31821292)

Am I missing something, or wouldn't this be a huge benefit to the existing process of extracting drinkable water from sea water? One of the major problems with the current process is the energy costs. If this is a low energy way to separate the hydrogen and oxygen, it would be easy to filter and much less energy intensive to recombine.

Re:Desalination (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821634)

Recombining Hydrogen and Oxygen is usually an explosive process though.

Mopping up (1)

Linzer (753270) | about 4 years ago | (#31821326)

Apparently, the viruses will have to clean up the mess as well. Title of the TFA: MIT researchers harness viruses to spilt water.

The promises of H (1)

ADHVfFsvjLIViaglKlqo (1766800) | about 4 years ago | (#31821346)

I can remember an episode of In Search of... that showed a room-temperature form of liquid H that would replace gasoline with only a $35 modification to the carburetor.

Re:The promises of H (1)

amliebsch (724858) | about 4 years ago | (#31821632)

Well..gasoline *is* a room-temperature form of liquid H. They don't call them "hydro"carbons for nothing.

What's in a name.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821372)

A GAS evolving VIRUS is created by the GERMeshausen Professor of Materials Science who's last name is BELCHER! Shouldn't this be an April 1 post?

Wow... (0, Flamebait)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 4 years ago | (#31821380)

Very cool and scary. The tension between possible salvation of man (cheap, clean energy) and his possible destruction (something going badly wrong). Reminds me of how people felt in the 50's regarding their hopes, dreams, and fears of nuclear power.

This is unbelievable fodder for science fiction writers.

Hydrogen Economy is Vaporware (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 4 years ago | (#31821384)

Regardless of the efficiency of this method, the hydrogen economy is still vaporware.

Hydrogen remains an energy transport, or store, not a source. You can't yet store enough practically to make a useful road vehicle. You lose energy manufacturing it electrically. You lose energy converting it back to electricity.

The current largest source of hydrogen? Oil. I'm sure you can wring it out of coal as well. The fossil fuel lobby love hydrogen technologies because they are the biggest source of hydrogen.

Solve the energy crisis? A practical fusion reactor and better electricity storage. Then we can get working on the molecular manufacturing and fix the environment back up.

Re:Hydrogen Economy is Vaporware (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 4 years ago | (#31821648)

As sucky as hydrogen is, it could still be a reasonable transportation fuel.

What it would take is a lot of very, very, cheap electricity, the kind which might be generated through a series of thousands of small and medium sized hydropower stations built alongside (but not in) America's rivers and stored in the recently mentioned sulfur sodium batteries (http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/04/07/022250). Using this proven, if unexciting technology, enough power could be generated to create hydrogen and fuel the transportation sector. It's not a perfect solution, but it requires no great technical breakthroughs, merely money (OK, so maybe not so merely), political will and enough smarts to do it without destroying the river ecologies of the USA.

Change the polar angle to 120 degrees! (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 4 years ago | (#31821390)

I hear if you change the covalent bond angle of water to 120 degrees, it cures cancer !

Human Contageon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31821424)

Can this virus be transmitted to a person? Just imagine what it would do...

Perpetual Motion ... (1)

ElSupreme (1217088) | about 4 years ago | (#31821484)

I am sorry this is not the full story. It requires a large amount of energy to seperate Hydrogen and Oxygen in water molecules. You get that energy back when you burn them together and get water. But you have to input energy in there somewhere. It is thermodynamics.

Re:Perpetual Motion ... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | about 4 years ago | (#31821702)

You’re right, and I’m one of the first to cry foul when somebody starts touting hydrogen as the miracle fuel. “Just split water,” they claim, “and you can get as much hydrogen as you need!” And yes, they usually fail to recognise that splitting water in the first place requires more energy than burning the hydrogen will produce (yes, more: you’ll never do it 100% efficiently).

Usually.

Solar cells harness the sun’s energy and convert it to electrical energy, but they’re not very efficient, and they’re not cheap.

If this breakthrough results in a cheaper, more efficient way of harnessing the sun’s energy and converting it to chemical energy, you do have a largely untapped energy source just begging to be exploit^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hutilized.

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