Honors College Thesis

Two Advances in Practical Alternative Energy: Thermotolerant Hydrogenase Concentration and Methane Hydrate Grain Size Proxies.

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  • Methane hydrates and biohydrogen are two disparate subjects that are of interest in the growing field of alternative energy research. However, before commercial use becomes a viable option, each has challenges that need to be overcome. Methane hydrates require large investments of time and capital to locate. In this thesis, physical properties of marine sediments were evaluated to determine if they could serve as useful proxies for grain size, which has been proven to correlate to the presence of methane hydrates in marine sediments. Grain size was manually analyzed for a set of over 600 marine sediment samples using wet-sieving and compared to a defined set of sediment parameters. Of the parameters analyzed, none proved successful proxies for grain size. Biohydrogen is hydrogen that is biologically produced, usually by bacteria, and has the potential to be used in fuel cells with currently available technology. The main barrier to commercial production is the sensitivity of hydrogen-producing hydrogenase enzymes to heat and oxygen. In this thesis, a particularly heat- and oxygen-stable hydrogenase enzyme, hynSL, was isolated from the phototrophic purple sulfur bacterium Thiocapsa roseopersicina and concentrated.
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