Retraining Algae to Make H2 for Fuel Cells

  • Author: ChemistryViews
  • Published: 26 May 2011
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
  • Source / Publisher: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci./National Academy of Sciences
thumbnail image: Retraining Algae to Make H<sub>2</sub> for Fuel Cells

Many kinds of algae and cyanobacteria are capable of using energy from sunlight to split water molecules and release hydrogen, a potential green fuel. But to these organisms, the production of H2 is a low priority — it is only a side reaction in the production of sugars that support the organism’s growth.

Shuguang Zhang and colleagues, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, have found a way to change this preference, allowing more hydrogen to be produced. They found that under the anaerobic conditions that support hydrogen production, there is a significant loss of photosynthetic electrons toward NADPH production in vitro. By replacing the hydrogenase enzyme in algae with a bioengineered ferredoxin-hydrogenase fusion enzyme, the team was able to shuttle the electrons directly to the hydrogenase and increase the rate of algal hydrogen production by about 400 %.

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