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
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...
Researchers at the Paul Scherer Institute (PSI) in Wädenswil, Switzerland, have succeeded in producing energy-rich gas from microalgae, and in doing so have demonstrated ...
SCHOTT AG, of Mitterteich, Germany, and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), based at Israel’s Kibbutz Ketura, have signed an R&D agreement to strengthen their partnersh...
Biplab Das reports in NatureAsia.com that a research team has found aqueous extracts of the marine brown algae Lobophoro variegate that can inhibit the replication of hum...
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- ...
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 ...
William Tucker writes in fullfreedom.org about the lure the oceans have for advocates of biofuel, particularly in Scandinavia. “Two-thirds of the globe is covered with wa...
Most Americans get plenty of protein, primarily from animal products including meat, eggs and milk. But for many, ensuring a healthy protein intake can be challenging. In...
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae because of their color, have endured for more than 2.5 billion years, providing ample time to adapt to changes in the Earth'...