Scientist says he has struck oil (aka hydrogen) 8 years back

Scientist says he has struck oil (aka hydrogen) 8 years back

Postby cacofonix » Tue Aug 19, 2008 3:26 pm

I came across this article which was published in 2000...(URL - )

Enzyme Lets Algae Produce Hydrogen To Use As Clean Fuel
Jan 31, 2000

Berkeley scientist says discovery is like 'striking oil'

Researchers have found a metabolic switch in algae that allows the primitive plants to produce hydrogen gas - a discovery that could ultimately result in a vast source of cheap, pollution-free fuel.

The breakthrough, by scientists at the University of California at Berkeley and the U.S. Department of Energy, would make possible the commercial production of hydrogen gas by photosynthesis in tanks, ponds or the open ocean. “I guess it's the equivalent of striking oil,” said Tasios Melis, a microbial biology professor at UC Berkeley. “It was enormously exciting. It was unbelievable.” Melis made the discovery with UC Berkeley researcher Liping Zhang and with Michael Seibert, Maria Ghiardi and Marc Forestier of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Department of Energy project in Golden, Colo. The team's findings appear in this month's issue of Plant Physiology, a science journal.

Seibert said it has been known for decades that algae give off small amounts of hydrogen. The problem from a commercial perspective, he said, was hydrogenase - an enzyme that produces hydrogen, but does so only in the absence of oxygen. All green photosynthetic plants - including algae - consume carbon dioxide in the presence of light to build tissue, respiring oxygen as a waste product. “But because hydrogenase shuts down in the presence of oxygen, it doesn't function during photosynthesis,” he said. “It basically only works during darkness, when photosynthesis isn't occurring.”

Because plant functions are at low ebb during darkness, Seibert said,the amount of hydrogen produced is minimal. But the team was able to solve the problem, said Seibert, by imposing a “nutrient stress” to the algae. “First we grow out the algae, `fatten' it under normal photosynthetic conditions,” he said. “Then we withhold sulfur.” Sulfur is critical for the completion of normal photosynthesis, Seibert said. In the absence of the element, the algae ceased emitting oxygen and stopped storing energy as carbohydrates, protein and fats. Instead, the algal cells began using “an alternative metabolic pathway” to exploit stored energy reserves anaerobically - in the absence of oxygen. The hydrogenase was activated, splitting large amounts of hydrogen gas from water and releasing it as a byproduct."

This is a year 2000 article. We are in 2008, and according to the way I do math, that's a time span of 8 years. I wonder what has happened to the research results such as these...I mean, if it is like striking oil, why hasn't more people struck oil in the last 8 years..what's amiss here?
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