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We Can Suck the Living Hydrogen Out of Plants

We need smokestacks. Yes. We need them just like David needed Goliath and like Harry needed Voldemorte. There wouldn't be a compelling story or the feeling of sheer satisfaction of good conquering evil if evil didn't exist. We need to give our heroes inner turmoil, external obstacles, and lives riddled with hellish nightmares in order to care and cheer uproariously when they achieve their goals.

If Harry had no horcruxes, Draco Malfoy, and murdered parents, and if he just lived in complete utopia, would anyone care if he ended up joining the wizard police and married what's her name? No. We'd be bored out of our minds and we'd probably hate his guts for being so happy. In the real world, we might not have a Voldemorte—but we have smokestacks that send out copious, disgusting waves of pollutants into the atmosphere. They also happen to resemble Mordor from The Lord of the Rings. That's good enough for me.

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I dream of the day when smokestacks and the reliance of fossil fuels are obliterated from the face of existence. With rising gas prices and the continuously damaging impact they have on the environment, who wouldn't? Not to mention, they are seriously hideous. The day of their demise is coming closer. Enter our hero—hydrogen.

Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, and his team of researchers at Virginia tech have figured out a way to use xylose, a plant sugar, to extract huge amounts of hydrogen from plants. This method is apparently not only good for the environment, but it's also cost effective:

This new environmentally friendly method of producing hydrogen utilizes renewable natural resources, releases almost no greenhouse gasses, and does not require costly or heavy metals. Previous methods to produce hydrogen are expensive and create greenhouse gases.

The U.S. Department of Energy says that hydrogen fuel has the potential to dramatically reduce reliance of fossil fuels and automobile manufactures are aggressively trying to develop vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells. Unlike gas-powered engines that spew out pollutants, the only byproduct of hydrogen fuel is water. Zhang's discovery opens the door to an inexpensive, renewable source of hydrogen.

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If the technology is made available it could find its way in the market place in as little as three years. Peace out smokestacks.

[via Virginia Tech News]

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