Kordi finds Midas touch with biofuel

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Kordi finds Midas touch with biofuel

Korea has invented a new technology that will help steel manufacturers cut emissions and enable the country to secure a higher value-added biofuel.

Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute (Kordi), which is under the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, announced yesterday it has developed a technology that turns carbon monoxide into hydrogen by using single-celled microorganisms from deep under the seabed in the Pacific Ocean.

Archaea microorganisms, particularly the strand known as NA1, can be used to produce hydrogen.

In September 2010, Kordi discovered how to use the microorganisms and the result was published in the U.S. science journal Nature.

"This is the world's best technology for producing biohydrogen out of carbon monoxide," said Kang Seong-kyun, Kordi's lead researcher in this field.

NA1 possesses a built-in catalyst that turns certain gases into hydrogen, which can increase production capacity 15-fold compared to other organisms, Kordi said. It was also found to have produced hydrogen with a high degree of purity.

The new technology is expected to cut carbon monoxide emissions from steel mills and add to the production of renewable energy, the institute said.

Korea's three steel mills emit about 3 million tons of carbon monoxide from blast furnace gas each year. Up to 65 percent of the carbon monoxide is recycled to heat the steel mills, with the rest released into the atmosphere.

However, it costs more to recycle the old gas than it would be to buy new natural gas, the institute said. On Tuesday, it opened a plant to experiment with the new technology.

If the institute succeeds in improving the technology so it can handle more capacity by 2018, it will be able to replace 5 percent, or 10,000 tons, of the country’ s total demand for hydrogen, it said.

By Song Su-hyun[ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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