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In 1939 Hans Gaffron, a University of Chicago research scientist, observed that the green algae he was studying, Chlamydomonas Reinhardtii, would occasionally switch from the production of oxygen to the production of Hydrogen. Gaffron was unable to discover why the algae would change to Hydrogen production and the answer would remain elusive for many years. In the late 1990s,
University of California at Berkeley Professor Anastasios Melis discovered that if the algae culture medium is deprived of sulfur it will switch from the production of oxygen (normal photosynthesis), to the production of Hydrogen.
Further research revealed that the enzyme responsible for this reaction is Hydrogenase, but that the Hydrogenase lost this function in the presence of oxygen. Melis determined that depleting the amount of sulfur available to the algae interrupted its internal oxygen flow, allowing the Hydrogenase an environment in which it can react, causing the algae to produce Hydrogen. Chlamydomonas moeweesi is also a good strain for the production of Hydrogen.
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