12 AUG 2011
MUSSELS NEAR DEEP-SEA VENTS CONVERT HYDROGEN TO ENERGY, STUDY SAYS
Researchers have discovered evidence that mussels living near deep-sea hydrothermal vents are capable of converting hydrogen into energy, acting as living “fuel cells” that provide insights into harnessing hydrogen energy for everyday use. While scientists already knew that organisms were able to convert hydrogen sulfide and methane into energy through a process known as chemosynthesis, a research team from the Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology and the University of Bremen found that mussels living in a vent field on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge also consume hydrogen. After collecting specimens from teeming mussel beds located deep beneath the ocean’s surface, the scientists were able to identify the key enzyme used by the mussels in hydrogen oxidation. The researchers estimate that the more than half-million mussels living in the region could consume up to 5,000 liters of hydrogen per hour. “The hydrothermal vents along the mid-ocean ridges that emit large amounts of hydrogen can therefore be likened to a hydrogen highway with fueling stations for symbiotic primary production,” said researcher Jillian Peterson. Their findings are published in the journal Nature.