Washington University Researchers Discover Algae Strain that Produces 10x more Hydrogen than Nearest Competitor
Washington University Researcher Himadri Pakrasi and fellow scientists are studying strains of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) and have discovered a strain that can produce 10 times as much hydrogen as the nearest competitor.
Here is a little background on this discovery as well as the overall process of how algae produce hydrogen:
The soup is colored by a strain of blue-green bacteria that bubble off roughly 10 times the hydrogen gas produced by their nearest competitors—in part because of their unique genetic endowment but also in part because of tricks the scientists have played on their metabolism.
Hydrogen gas can be produced by microbes that have enzymes called hydrogenases that take two hydrogen ions and bind them together. Although the soup microbes have hydrogenases, most of the hydrogen they evolve is a byproduct instead of an exceptionally efficient nitrogenase, an enzyme that converts the nitrogen in air to a nitrogen-containing molecule the microbes can use.
The microbe’s gas-producing feat is described in December 14,2010 issue of the online journal Nature Communications.
Biohydrogen, like that bubbling up from the microbial soup, is one of the most appealing renewable energy fuels. Produced by splitting water with energy from the sun, it releases mostly water when it burns. It’s hard to get any cleaner than that.
The strain growing in the Roux bottles in the cabinet, called Cyanothece 51142 was originally found in the Gulf of Mexico by Louis A. Sherman of Purdue University, one of the article’s authors. Its genes were sequenced in 2008 at the Genome Sequencing Center at the School of Medicine.
Pretty awesome news and it will be interesting to see what this kind of research leads if/when it intersects with developments done by companies like OriginOil.