Hydrogen from algae

Not just any algae, I’ll have you know. Mutant algae.

Algae produce hydrogen during photosynthesis, and that element provides a lot of energy — one kilogramme of hydrogen is the equivalent of a gallon of petrol.

Professor Anastasios Melis of the University of California has engineered a species that makes better use of sunlight than those found in nature — increasing the hydrogen created by a factor of three.

Melis and his colleagues are designing algae that have less chlorophyll so that they absorb less sunlight. That means more light penetrates into the deeper algae layers, and eventually, more cells use the sunlight to make hydrogen… During normal photosynthesis, algae focus on using the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose, releasing oxygen in the process. Only about 3 to 5 percent of photosynthesis leads to hydrogen. Melis estimates that, if the entire capacity of the photosynthesis of the algae could be directed toward hydrogen production, 80 kilograms of hydrogen could be produced commercially per acre per day.

Melis’s team is working toward 50% capacity, though it will be five years at least before proper commercial applications become reality. At 50%, the cost of producing the hydrogen would be $2.80 (€1.96), on a par with the cost of producing petrol.

With algae as a renewable energy source, it could be a huge breakthrough in weaning ourselves off oil. Fingers and toes crossed that this one works out.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *