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Published on April 1st, 2008 | by Clayton

9

Algae Could Be Major Hydrogen Fuel Source


algae, pond, hydrogen

[social_buttons] While the first algae-to-biofuels facility went online today, scientists at Argonne National Labs are manipulating the photosynthetic super-organism for another use: creating hydrogen.

Algae grows prolifically in adverse conditions, and can store large amounts of oils or starches useful for making biodiesel or ethanol. But some strains also use an enzyme called hydrogenase to produce small amounts of hydrogen gas. Scientists think this is the organism’s way of getting rid of excess energy under high-light conditions.

But the hydrogen isn’t really linked to photosynthesis in a way that’s useful to the plant (or us). So researchers are now trying to combine the activity of the hydrogenase enzyme with photosynthesis, to produce a sun-powered hydrogen-generation pathway.

The only problem: efficiency. Biological pathways will only convert about 5-10% of the sun’s energy into hydrogen. The scientists at Argonne hope to create a synthetic pathway that steps up the conversion, by extracting the hydrogenase enzyme and placing it in a synthetic protein framework.

Admittedly, this research is in the early stages, but it could someday offer major advances in renewable-fuel production. Is there anything algae can’t do?

I guess if this doesn’t work out, we can always fall back on algae biodiesel being used in biodiesel fuel cells

Author’s note: this isn’t an April Fool’s joke. The April Fool’s joke can be found here: Ford’s Coal-to-Liquids Concept Vehicle: Release in 2010

Related Posts:

First Algae Biodiesel Plant Goes Online: April 1, 2008

How Solar Panels Could Power 90% of US Transportation

How Biodiesel Fuel-Cells Could Power The Future (And Your Car)

Source: Science Daily (Apr. 1, 2008): Algae Could One Day Be Major Hydrogen Fuel Source



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About the Author

In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.



  • http://car-swap-meet.damox.com Alternative Fuel Man

    Let’s hope so! Algae seems to be the best future fuel solution so far. We need to stop the money we’re pouring into corn-based ethanol projects (which is really just a subsidy to the corn industry, a powerful voting block) and move that money into algae fuel development.

  • http://car-swap-meet.damox.com Alternative Fuel Man

    Let’s hope so! Algae seems to be the best future fuel solution so far. We need to stop the money we’re pouring into corn-based ethanol projects (which is really just a subsidy to the corn industry, a powerful voting block) and move that money into algae fuel development.

  • Dale Kaup

    Hydrogen is old news.

    There is little point in retooling our cars to run on hydrogen produced from algae when we can run on the same liquid fuels we already use now also produced from algae.

    When you figure the environmental costs of producing these new cars the break even is extremely far into the future.

    Hydrogen, in fact, could be produced by hydrolysis (using renewable energy such as wind power) as an ingredient to be used to make the liquid fuels we now use.

  • Dale Kaup

    Hydrogen is old news.

    There is little point in retooling our cars to run on hydrogen produced from algae when we can run on the same liquid fuels we already use now also produced from algae.

    When you figure the environmental costs of producing these new cars the break even is extremely far into the future.

    Hydrogen, in fact, could be produced by hydrolysis (using renewable energy such as wind power) as an ingredient to be used to make the liquid fuels we now use.

  • J.R.R

    Algae? Come, on people! then you have to harvest and extract it, etc. Hydrogen can be extracted with much fewer steps from any bio source, and in massive amounts from things like water (it’s the “H” in H20, remember?.

    The whole earth is packed full of Hydrogen, and Hydrogen is really, really, really abundant in the water of the earth (that is the blue color areas surrounding the continents of any desk Atlas Globe.

    Hydrogen is everywhere! even the sun is hydrogen (on fire). FuelCell electric cars work with Hydrogen as fuel. Hydrogen can be extracted with simple electrolysis by anyone at home.

    It’s a basic science lesson in junior high school chemistry.

    Also, it’s super clean, producing water vapor when used in a fuelCell electric or even in a combustion engine…!

    Let’s all get our heads together on this matter and get on with this “Hydrogen Society” every politician and nature freak is babbling about.

  • J.R.R

    Algae? Come, on people! then you have to harvest and extract it, etc. Hydrogen can be extracted with much fewer steps from any bio source, and in massive amounts from things like water (it’s the “H” in H20, remember?.

    The whole earth is packed full of Hydrogen, and Hydrogen is really, really, really abundant in the water of the earth (that is the blue color areas surrounding the continents of any desk Atlas Globe.

    Hydrogen is everywhere! even the sun is hydrogen (on fire). FuelCell electric cars work with Hydrogen as fuel. Hydrogen can be extracted with simple electrolysis by anyone at home.

    It’s a basic science lesson in junior high school chemistry.

    Also, it’s super clean, producing water vapor when used in a fuelCell electric or even in a combustion engine…!

    Let’s all get our heads together on this matter and get on with this “Hydrogen Society” every politician and nature freak is babbling about.

  • Uncle B

    The large amount of fuel America once required is diminishing, Americans are practically speaking, broke, and their ability to compete in the world for goods and services crippled by Asia and its thrust for market-share. I see a “Third World” America in the near horizon, in which legalized “Pot” and illegal drugs, alcohol, and immorality combined with crime and corrupt politics, poor schooling, and driven by the Industrial/military machine thirsting for conquest abroad, no concern for the homeland. I see an America owned and operated by China, a “Branch plant” and “Wholly Owned Subsidiary” mentality for American workers. I see OPEC influences abounding, a few rich Americans with far too much, the larger population starving in ignorance,like Saudi Arabia, but without Princes, only foreign capital managers. Americans,following conventions of the day, and totally manipulated by the Video influences, a replacement of the former “press” – robots in their own land. I see dormed factories, buses, and walking for poor people, fewer and fewer planes, less commerce, more slums, more limousine style cars for the rich, and little need for more fuel of any kind! Asia will surpass America shortly, and develop new fuel sources on Asian terms, with Asian technologies foreign to American Science! Whether we derive fuel as H2 or Diesel oil will mean nothing! We are inflexible to the point of refusing the adoption of Euro-Diesels to save 40% of our fuel bills right off the top! never mind the saving due to more durable, longer lasting engines! We Americans walked away from it! What in Hell makes anyone think that even a “Miracle Fuel” would even get notice in America? We are so deeply entrenched in our ways as to die repeating errors of the past, in full knowledge of the folly, yet driven like lemmings to die anyway on the thresholds of convention! We have perfected Solar Thermal technology in hand and desert s wasting away energy, yet we burn foreign oil! We have huge supplies of the richest (richer than Asian pigs) Humanure, spread callously into clean waters, instead of using Bio-Gassing technologies readily available for fuel-gas and fertilizer-topsoil improver, radiated to safety! even for for food gardens! Yet, we buy foreign oil and make fuel and fertilizer from it! We build unheatable, uncoolable, unsustainable McMansions, with great, expensive lawns in ‘burbs, then foreclose them for their impracticality! Folly! In spite of the Eco-Ark example and technologies that can allow almost total off-grid survival for free! and them we have to gaul to cry about “brown-outs”! Do you really think research money on H2 fuels will change our very nature?: I doubt it very much! We have the fattest asses displayed by human beings ever! And, we bear witness to this every day on T.V. in the movies, in videos! Do we change our extremely unhealthy diet, repulsed by the very image of sickness and depravity we demonstrate? Hell No! We build more McDonald’s shops, feed more cattle corn, hormones, antibiotics and Foreign Oil derived foodstuffs to force them to gain weight, produce more pounds of unhealthy slop for the burger joints, and shove down our holes in spite of our good knowledge! Change fuels? Change modes of transport? Change anything? Hell No! Not the American way to progress! H2, O2 technologies including a very economical twist on electrolysis using urine and iron electrodes has been developed! by Americans! Adapted? Hell No! Waste it! let the Chinese intellectual elite adapt it! give it away! Like the transistor, remember? Then buy the little radios and computers from Asians and earn nothing, pay through the nose! American Way to Go! Algae based bio-diesel and Euro diesel/electric cars, both well known, well developed, working technologies!Good enough to eradicate foreign oil imports, save the economy, and with Algae based bio diesel extend our society for a sustainably long time! In use in America? Hell No! We still burn chemically laced, spark ignited, gasoline, in low compression, inefficient, polluting engines, built in Asia, now because bureaucracy killed our car industry! Third World entities burn little fuel, and we soon will be there. Regrettably, I do not know why, but we fail fast, and the writing is on every slum’s wall! America is following Detroit City into the abyss!

  • Uncle B

    The large amount of fuel America once required is diminishing, Americans are practically speaking, broke, and their ability to compete in the world for goods and services crippled by Asia and its thrust for market-share. I see a “Third World” America in the near horizon, in which legalized “Pot” and illegal drugs, alcohol, and immorality combined with crime and corrupt politics, poor schooling, and driven by the Industrial/military machine thirsting for conquest abroad, no concern for the homeland. I see an America owned and operated by China, a “Branch plant” and “Wholly Owned Subsidiary” mentality for American workers. I see OPEC influences abounding, a few rich Americans with far too much, the larger population starving in ignorance,like Saudi Arabia, but without Princes, only foreign capital managers. Americans,following conventions of the day, and totally manipulated by the Video influences, a replacement of the former “press” – robots in their own land. I see dormed factories, buses, and walking for poor people, fewer and fewer planes, less commerce, more slums, more limousine style cars for the rich, and little need for more fuel of any kind! Asia will surpass America shortly, and develop new fuel sources on Asian terms, with Asian technologies foreign to American Science! Whether we derive fuel as H2 or Diesel oil will mean nothing! We are inflexible to the point of refusing the adoption of Euro-Diesels to save 40% of our fuel bills right off the top! never mind the saving due to more durable, longer lasting engines! We Americans walked away from it! What in Hell makes anyone think that even a “Miracle Fuel” would even get notice in America? We are so deeply entrenched in our ways as to die repeating errors of the past, in full knowledge of the folly, yet driven like lemmings to die anyway on the thresholds of convention! We have perfected Solar Thermal technology in hand and desert s wasting away energy, yet we burn foreign oil! We have huge supplies of the richest (richer than Asian pigs) Humanure, spread callously into clean waters, instead of using Bio-Gassing technologies readily available for fuel-gas and fertilizer-topsoil improver, radiated to safety! even for for food gardens! Yet, we buy foreign oil and make fuel and fertilizer from it! We build unheatable, uncoolable, unsustainable McMansions, with great, expensive lawns in ‘burbs, then foreclose them for their impracticality! Folly! In spite of the Eco-Ark example and technologies that can allow almost total off-grid survival for free! and them we have to gaul to cry about “brown-outs”! Do you really think research money on H2 fuels will change our very nature?: I doubt it very much! We have the fattest asses displayed by human beings ever! And, we bear witness to this every day on T.V. in the movies, in videos! Do we change our extremely unhealthy diet, repulsed by the very image of sickness and depravity we demonstrate? Hell No! We build more McDonald’s shops, feed more cattle corn, hormones, antibiotics and Foreign Oil derived foodstuffs to force them to gain weight, produce more pounds of unhealthy slop for the burger joints, and shove down our holes in spite of our good knowledge! Change fuels? Change modes of transport? Change anything? Hell No! Not the American way to progress! H2, O2 technologies including a very economical twist on electrolysis using urine and iron electrodes has been developed! by Americans! Adapted? Hell No! Waste it! let the Chinese intellectual elite adapt it! give it away! Like the transistor, remember? Then buy the little radios and computers from Asians and earn nothing, pay through the nose! American Way to Go! Algae based bio-diesel and Euro diesel/electric cars, both well known, well developed, working technologies!Good enough to eradicate foreign oil imports, save the economy, and with Algae based bio diesel extend our society for a sustainably long time! In use in America? Hell No! We still burn chemically laced, spark ignited, gasoline, in low compression, inefficient, polluting engines, built in Asia, now because bureaucracy killed our car industry! Third World entities burn little fuel, and we soon will be there. Regrettably, I do not know why, but we fail fast, and the writing is on every slum’s wall! America is following Detroit City into the abyss!

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