Research

NREL increases hydrogen production from algae

February 11, 2014
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado

National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado

Scientists at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have demonstrated that just two of six iron-sulfur-containing ferredoxins in a representative species of algae promote electron transfers to and from hydrogenases. The finding suggests ways to increase the production of hydrogen by algae, which could help turn hydrogen into a viable alternative fuel for transportation.

Using sunlight and water to produce potential transportation fuels such as hydrogen is considered a promising solution in the quest for developing clean, abundant, domestic alternatives to petroleum.

NREL Scientist Alexandra Dubini

NREL Scientist Alexandra Dubini

A paper on the discovery, “Identification of global ferredoxin interaction networks in in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii,” appears online in The Journal of Biological Chemistry. The authors note that Chlamydomonas reinhardtii contains six chloroplast-localized ferredoxins (the iron-sulfur-containing redox mediators) whose exact functions are still unclear. C. reinhardtii often serves as a model for other algae strains because its genome is sequenced and it is amenable to genetic modification.

By analyzing the interacting partners and reactions catalyzed by each of the six ferredoxins (FDX), they found that FDX1 serves as the primary electron donor to hydrogen production via photosynthesis. FDX2 can do the job, but at less than half the rate, while FDX3 through FDX6 appear to play no role in this particular reaction.

In technical terms, the NREL scientists deconvoluted the complex network of redox reactions centered in the six iron-sulfur-containing algal ferredoxins. By revealing that only two of them promote electron transfer to and from hydrogenases, they helped extend the understanding of electron competition at the level of the ferredoxin.

“When we tested all the ferredoxins as electron donors, the best rate was obtained with FDX1,” said NREL Scientist Alexandra Dubini, one of the authors for the paper. Lead authors are Erin Peden and Marko Boem, with contributions from NREL colleagues David Mulder, ReAnna Davis, William Old, Paul King, Maria Ghirardi and Dubini.

The discovery could lead to ways to stem the flow of electrons to the other pathways, forcing more electrons through the FDX1 pathway for increased hydrogen production, Dubini said. “There is this competition for photosynthetic reductant among different pathways and ferredoxins distribute electrons among the various other pathways, depending on the conditions and requirements of the cell.”

Recent papers on the same green alga species indicate that it is possible to genetically eliminate certain competitive electron-utilizing pathways, and that directing more electrons instead towards the cell’s hydrogenase does increase hydrogen production. In an industrial setting, green algal mutant strains optimized for hydrogen gas production would be cultivated in a sealed bioreactor and the hydrogen gas produced would be collected and stored for use in fuel cells.

Dubini said that day could be a long way off, noting that so far this is just fundamental science. “But by exploring all the different barriers to hydrogen production we are gaining a much better understanding of the functions of the ferredoxins and their involvement in hydrogen production – and that is very exciting,” she added.

The work was supported by DOE’s Office of Science.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2014 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) released the following statement calling on the EPA to include Carbon Capture and Utilization strategies in rules proposed June 2, 20...
A new, outdoor system at the University of Dayton Research Institute has been producing a high volume of algae since its installation in the summer of 2013, even through ...
Four years after the first optimistic calculations, the experimental cultivation of algae at Wageningen University in the Netherlands appears to be meeting expectations. ...
Gilbert, AZ-based Heliae has announced a partnership with Sincere Corporation, a Japanese waste management and recycling company, to form a joint venture and develop a co...
Algae Industry Magazine is pleased to announce a new Algae 101 series by our popular blogger, Mark Edwards, Professor, Arizona State University. The Algae Solutions to Na...
Kyae Mone Win reports in the Myanmar Times that spirulina has been harvested from Twin Daung lake in Sagaing’s Bu Ta Lin township for over a decade, but climate change an...
Starting in the early 70s, agencies in the former USSR invested more than 20,000 person-years of research and development to produce Bio-Algae Concentrates (BAC) that hel...
Steven Mufson reports for the Washington Post that Algenol Biofuels estimates hackers have attempted to break into its computers 39 million times in four months this year...
A recent discovery in the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri,has revealed the origin of male and female sexes, showing how they evolved from a more primitive mating...
Bookending the upcoming Algae Biomass Summit, Sept. 29-Oct.2 in San Diego, will be industry tours to give attendees a first-hand look at the latest progress in technical ...
Expanding from its initial work in algal biofuels, General Atomic’s (GA’s) Advanced Biological Processes team has focused on the rising need for food globally, specifical...
James “Jamie” Levine took over the reigns at Sapphire Energy in July of this year as former President and CEO Cynthia “CJ” Warner stepped down, retaining her role as chai...
With their new CO₂ processing-platform called AstaCos, AlgaeBiotech can produce waxy particles of only 50-100 µm in size with a loading of 25% astaxanthin oleoresin. The ...
MicroBio Engineering, Inc., of San Luis Obispo, California, has introduced a full suite of open pond microalgae growth systems designed for quick deployment of research- ...
Hortidaily.com reports that in Nevele, Belgium, Tomalgae is growing algae in a former tomato greenhouse. Their company was formed when tomato cultivation entrepreneurs Pi...
On September 25, 2014, a photobioreactor for the cultivation of algae was officially unveiled during a seminar at Thomas More University College in Mechelen, Belgium. Und...
Iran-based Qeshm Microalgae Biorefinery Co. (QMAB) has launched a biofuel being marketed as BAYA®, produced from a species of Nannochloropsis (strain 6016) isolated from ...
Western Morning News reports that Westcountry scientists in the U.K. are using algae to develop an innovative new method of cleaning up contaminated mine water while harv...