Hydrogen highway in the deep sea

31.08.2011

Hydrogen as an energy source could in future help meet the world´s rising energy demands. But certain bacteria have long since paved the way. In joint research with Hamburg biochemists, scientists from Bremen have discovered a type of mussel living close to deep sea vents which are able to use bacteria internally as living "fuel cells". The ability to exploit hydrogen could well be widespread among symbiotic communities between bacteria and higher organisms along deep sea vents, the researchers and their Hamburger colleague write in the current edition of "Nature".

At a depth of 3,000 metres on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge - a mountain range at the bottom of the ocean - the Logatchev hydrothermal vent field is located halfway between the Caribbean and the Cape Verde Islands. There are numerous springs emitting super-heated water at up to 360 degrees Celsius, so-called black smoker chimneys. They release minerals such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane and iron, as well as large quantities of hydrogen. It was here that scientists from Hamburg´s KlimaCampus found the highest concentrations of hydrogen ever found at deep sea vents.

The scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology discovered a special strain of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria in the gills of the deep-sea mussel Bathymodiolus puteoserpentis. These bacteria were also able to utilize hydrogen for energy and nourishment.

According to experiments and calculations, the bacterial tenants of these mussels play a significant role as primary producers and in the transformation of geochemical energy into biomass. "These vents along Mid-Atlantic Ridge can be likened to a hydrogen highway with fuelling stations for symbiotic primary production", said Jillian Petersen from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen. 

Here the long version of the press release.

For more information:


Katja Tholen-Ihnen
KlimaCampus, Outreach

Telefon: 040-42838-7596
Email: katja.tholen-ihnendummy@zmawdummy2.de


Dr. Richard Seifert
Institute for Biogeochemistry and Marine Chemistry

Telefon: 040-42838-4987
Email: richard.seifertdummy@zmawdummy2.de