Algae produces Clean Sustainable Hydrogen

Bruce, a professor of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology leads a team at UT Knoxville that has found the inner machinery of photosynthesis can be isolated from certain algae and, when coupled with a platinum catalyst, is able to produce a steady supply of hydrogen when exposed to light.

The UT team working with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is showing that photosynthesis – the process by which plants regenerate using energy from the sun – may function as that clean, sustainable source of hydrogen.

Bruce and his colleagues found that by starting with a thermophilic blue-green algae, which favors warmer temperatures, they could sustain the reaction at temperatures as high as 55 degrees C, or 131 degrees F. That is roughly the temperature in arid deserts with high solar irradiation, where the process would be most productive. They also found the process was more than 10 times more efficient as the temperature increased. Using the plant or algae’s built-in solar system to create hydrogen could be a major step forward.

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