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Designer Algae Plants May Produce Hydrogen for Fuel

May 1st, 2008 | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

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Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Illinois and Northwestern University are collaborating to design plants that use photosynthesis to churn out hydrogen, which could be a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

And they think the single-celled algae is well-suited to the task.

“This is long-term research,” said David Tiede, a senior chemist at Argonne. “Hydrogen is one generation or two generations away as the basis for our energy, but we have to start now to find efficient ways to extract it.”

Algae has no roots, can be grown in water anywhere and creates an enzyme, hydrogenase, that separates hydrogen gas from water. Like most plants, algae combines carbon dioxide, sunlight and water to create biomass, biological material that can be used as fuel or for industrial production. With excessive sunlight, some unwanted byproducts are converted to hydrogen by the enzyme.

Tiede and his colleagues believe they can incorporate that hydrogen into the algae’s core photosynthesis process, making hydrogen a primary product.

Nature gave us oil from algae; perhaps we should try Nature’s way again

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