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How bacteria split hydrogen to generate electricity

Researchers at RCaH and the University of Oxford have worked out how bacteria split hydrogen gas to generate electricity, using an enzyme, Hydrogenase, that contains iron and nickel. Fuel cells use very expensive platinum to split hydrogen, but Nature knows better and uses cheaper metals. The researchers studied the activity and structure of the enzyme, to understand exactly how it works, which could lead to the design of better man-made synthetic catalysts.

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The Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH) is a new, multidisciplinary laboratory that provides facilities for researchers to undertake new and cutting edge scientific research in both life and physical sciences and the interface between them. It is located on the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) site on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, adjacent to Diamond, the new third generation Synchrotron Radiation (SR) source. It is also close to other leading facilities on the campus: the ISIS neutron source, Central Laser Facility, Membrane Protein Laboratory, MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit and Mary Lyon Centre, and a Biological Solid State NMR Facility.

It is open, on a competitive basis, to research teams from UK universities, as well as to Diamond and RAL staff. The MRC is leading the project on behalf of RCUK, in partnership with BBSRC, EPSRC, NERC, STFC and Diamond.