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Prof's biofuel research could help lessen fuel crisis

Research by an Austin Peay State University biology professor could help to manufacture hydrogen more efficiently for use as a biofuel in vehicles – and become part of a solution to the current fuel crisis.
Research by an Austin Peay State University biology professor could help to manufacture hydrogen more efficiently for use as a biofuel in vehicles — and become part of a solution to the current fuel crisis.

Dr. Sergei Markov, assistant professor of biology, has developed a prototype bioreactor that uses the purple bacterium Rubrivivax gelatinosus to produce enough hydrogen to power a small motor. He recently presented a paper, titled “Hydrogen production by purple nonsulfur bacterium in a bioreactor,” at the 108th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Boston.

As a result, his work, initially supported by grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, has appeared in a dozen of publications on the Internet, including Science Daily, and on several foreign news Web sites. Most recently, he appeared on Russian TV News.

“Certain purple bacteria, which usually grow in the mud of various ponds and lakes have the ability to convert water and carbon monoxide into hydrogen gas,” Markov said in the June 5, 2008, edition of Science Daily. “The problem was how to effectively supply each bacterial cell in a liquid bacterial soup with gaseous carbon monoxide.”

Another dilemma issue is that carbon monoxide is not readily available, but Markov said it could be produced easily from biomass using a specific thermochemical process. Also, other bacteria produce carbon monoxide, he said.

Markov came to APSU in 2006 from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., where he was an assistant professor. He also has taught at Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va., King's College London in England and Moscow State University in Russia, where he received his Ph.D. in microbiology and master's degree in biochemistry and physiology. -- Melony A. Jones