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Fuel Cells

Renewable and Cost Effective In-vitro Bio Hydrogen Production

Company Name: Nzyme2HC, LLC
Program Office: Fuel Cells
Location: Austin, TX
Website: N/A
Email: Steve Cardona, Founder & CEO;
Award Amount: $100,000
Project Term: 6 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): National Renewable Energy Laboratory


Hydrogen fuel cells are a potential source of dense, portable energy storage, but their overall impact on the economy and environment will depend on how companies synthesize hydrogen fuel. Various technologies are under development for production of renewable hydrogen for future fuel-cell-based energy storage and transportation applications, many of which are either based on expensive or high-energy processes, including some that utilize fossil fuels, such as, methane reformation.

Nzyme2HC thinks that microbial-centric platforms based on the activity of hydrogenases — hydrogen-producing enzymes — utilizing industrial waste as the primary feedstock, will represent the most cost-efficient and clean hydrogen producing process. The company has already worked with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to develop a nano-lipoprotein particle and demonstrated its stability and activity in a small scale experiment.

Nzyme2HC has built on that discovery and developed a carbon dioxide-free hydrogen production concept. Through the SBV Pilot, the company will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to measure and test hydrogen production in vivo or in vitro. Ultimately, lab researchers will work closely with Nzyme2HC to develop and evaluate a novel enzymatic process for production of renewable hydrogen to deliver a potentially high-yield and low-cost renewable hydrogen generation process.


The proposed technology combines enzymatic hydrogen production by an oxygen-protected hydrogenase, combined with electrochemical recycling of an electron mediator. The process would require a minimum amount of energy input and would produce hydrogen continuously with little loss of activity over time. Importantly, the process would use industrial waste water as the source of protons. Company and lab staff can run experiments and provide needed data to evaluate the actual feasibility of the process for commercial applications. If successful, the company will demonstrate a potentially less expensive method for the production of hydrogen, combining biology and electrochemistry with long-lived enzymes and mediator-recycling.


Expanded fuel cell production could create a new source of advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States and associated fuel production could further bolster the clean technology sector.

Utilizing waste materials and renewable energy to synthesize hydrogen fuel would allow fuel cells to operate on a carbon-neutral basis, minimizing the impact of transportation and electricity applications using fuel cells.

Fuel cells utilized in the transportation sector offer an alternative to oil use, both for passenger vehicles and large fleets, including mass transit applications. Fuel cells can also serve as energy storage and backup power for homes, businesses and utilities, strengthening the grid and making it more resilient.

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