Photosynthesis is the process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, mostly sugars, using sunlight energy. In translation it’s the process that helps plants assimilate the elements they need to grow. By this plants take the carbon dioxide from the air and release into the atmosphere oxygen. But what if we could use this process to produce energy, energy that is not pollutant? What if this process could produce clean-burning hydrogen?Analyzing a single-celled green alga, researchers have found a fermentation process which was not known before that can revolution hydrogen production. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a soil or fresh water single-celled alga, produces it’s own energy by fermentation when it has no source of oxygen. Hydrogen is released by an enzyme called hydrogenase, powered by electrons generated by breakdown of organic compounds or by the splitting of water by photosynthesis. The researches goal is to increase the small quantity of electrons that go into the hydrogen production.
Scientists from Carnegie Institution’s Department of Plant Biology, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), studied the metabolic behavior of a mutant strain that was unable to assemble a hydrogenase enzyme. This algae activated a pathway leading to the production of succinate. Succinate is a top 12 chemical on the Department of Energy’s list.
“This finding suggests that there is significant flexibility in the ways that soil-dwelling green algae can metabolize carbon under anaerobic conditions. By blocking and modifying some of these metabolic pathways, we may be able to augment the donation of electrons to hydrogenase under anaerobic conditions and produce elevated levels of hydrogen” says Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman.
Researchers have identified a gene which is involved in the fermentation and hydrogen production. This discovery may lead to new ways of obtaining hydrogen and other biofuels as clean energy. Algae based hydrogen usage will reduce pollution and will have no any impact on agricultural lands as crop based biofuels.