Courtesy of Carla Santee
A NEW KIND OF BUBBLY: Suellen Van Ooteghem's bioreactor is producing a gas that is 80% hydrogen: "These results are unprecedented."

A large glass bioreactor in the corner of Suellen Van Ooteghem's lab at the National Energy Technology Laboratory is filled with what appears to be murky champagne. The pale yellow solution even has tiny bubbles streaming to the top. The liquid is arguably as precious as any champagne, and the bubbles are even more valuable: They are almost pure hydrogen.

Hydrogen, it's been said, is the fuel of the future. When used in fuel cells to create electricity, the only pollutant is water. But what prevents hydrogen from replacing oil as this country's main source of energy are a bundle of engineering hurdles. The greatest technological obstacle is the high cost of producing hydrogen cheaply and cleanly. The most promising current technology is the use...

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