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
Biomass abounds on Earth, as forests, fields, sewage and seaweed. But only a small fraction, mostly human or agricultural waste, can be harvested without posing environme...
Technical standards define critical terms and metrics to add wisdom for the algae industry. Agreement among science and business leaders represents possibly the most diff...
Algatechnologies (“Algatech”), Israel, has announced a more than 100% expansion of its production capacity of AstaPure® brand natural astaxanthin. This doubling of capaci...
As the number of photobioreactors in an algae growing operation increases, there is a need for both autonomous control and monitoring of individual PBRs, as well as centr...
Yereth Rosen reports in the Anchorage Daily News that scientists at North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute have found extremely high levels o...
Algenist®, Solazyme’s anti-aging skincare brand featuring microalgae, has announced its launch in Nordstrom locations throughout the United States. The launch into Nordst...
By sending algae into space, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his team will be able to study some of the key mechanisms that control plant growth and...
In Phys.Org, Yu Yonehara notes the breakthrough research from the Tokyo Institute of Technology on the connection between early marine algae and the development of terres...
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...
Four years after the first optimistic calculations, the experimental cultivation of algae at Wageningen University in the Netherlands appears to be meeting expectations. ...
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...
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...
Perth, Western Australia-based Algae.Tec Limited has announced that the Reliance Group has converted the first tranche of options following the positive progress achieved...
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 ...
Using a combination of satellite imagery and laboratory experiments, researchers have evidence showing that viruses infecting those algae are driving the life-and-death d...
Oregon State University researchers are combining diatoms, a type of single-celled photosynthetic algae, with nanoparticles to create a sensor capable of detecting minisc...
Portuguese cement facility, Secil, and microalgae biotechnology company, A4F, also based in Portugal, have formed AlgaFarm, a joint venture to develop the use of cement f...