Navigation Links
MIT: Teaching algae to make fuel
Date:5/24/2011

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Many kinds of algae and cyanobacteria, common water-dwelling microorganisms, are capable of using energy from sunlight to split water molecules and release hydrogen, which holds promise as a clean and carbon-free fuel for the future. One reason this approach hasn't yet been harnessed for fuel production is that under ordinary circumstances, hydrogen production takes a back seat to the production of compounds that the organisms use to support their own growth.

But Shuguang Zhang, associate director of MIT's Center for Biomedical Engineering, and postdocs Iftach Yacoby and Sergii Pochekailov, together with colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, have found a way to use bioengineered proteins to flip this preference, allowing more hydrogen to be produced.

"The algae are really not interested in producing hydrogen, they want to produce sugar," Yacoby says the sugar is what they need for their own survival, and the hydrogen is just a byproduct. But a multitasking enzyme, introduced into the liquid where the algae are at work, both suppresses the sugar production and redirects the organisms' energies into hydrogen production. The work is described in a paper being published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and was supported in part by a European Molecular Biology Organization postdoctoral fellowship, the Yang Trust Fund and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Adding the bioengineered enzyme increases the rate of algal hydrogen production by about 400 percent, Yacoby says. The sugar production is suppressed but not eliminated, he explains, because "if it went to zero, it would kill the organism."

The research demonstrates for the first time how the two processes carried out by algae compete with each other; it also shows how that competition could be modified to favor hydrogen production in a laboratory environment. Zhang and Yacoby plan to continue developing the system to increase its efficiency of hydrogen production.

"It's one step closer to an industrial process," Zhang says. "First, you have to understand the science" which has been achieved through this experimental work. Now, developing it further through refinements to produce a viable commercial system for hydrogen-fuel manufacturing is "a matter of time and money," Zhang says.

Ultimately, such a system could be used to produce hydrogen on a large scale using water and sunlight. The hydrogen could be used directly to generate electricity in a fuel cell or to power a vehicle, or could be combined with carbon dioxide to make methane or other fuels in a renewable, carbon-neutral way, the researchers say.

In the long run, "the only viable way to produce renewable energy is to use the sun, [either] to make electricity or in a biochemical reaction to produce hydrogen," Yacoby says. "I believe there is no one solution," he adds, but rather many different approaches depending on the location and the end uses.

This particular approach, he says, is simple enough that it has promise "not just in industrialized countries, but in developing countries as well" as a source of inexpensive fuel. The algae needed for the process exist everywhere on Earth, and there are no toxic materials involved in any part of the process, he says.

"The beauty is in its simplicity," he says.


'/>"/>

Contact: Marta Buczek
mbuczek@mit.edu
617-253-2702
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. NSF grant to launch undergrads from Case Western Reserve into math and science teaching
2. New manual presents robust, state-of-the-art proteomics methods for teaching and research
3. Describing soils: Calibration tool for teaching soil rupture resistance
4. Clemson chemists present revolutionary teaching concepts
5. K-State plant pathologists develop online teaching modules used globally
6. UAB professors book promises solution for teaching evolution without conflict
7. Physical education teaching staff play key role in making you like sport
8. American Sociological Association launches first-of-its-kind teaching tool
9. Ethical issues ignored in teaching, research of sustainability
10. Teaching communication and information literacy skills
11. McMaster, NVIDIA establish first CUDA Teaching Centre in Canada
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/30/2017)... LOS ANGELES , March 30, 2017  On ... Hack the Genome hackathon at ... This exciting two-day competition will focus on developing health ... experience. Hack the Genome is ... has been tremendous. The world,s largest companies in the ...
(Date:3/29/2017)...  higi, the health IT company that operates the ... , today announced a Series B investment from ... The new investment and acquisition accelerates higi,s strategy to ... population health activities through the collection and workflow integration ... collects and secures data today on behalf of over ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... The Controller General of Immigration from Maldives Mr. Mohamed ... received the prestigious international IAIR Award for the most innovative high security ... ... Maldives Immigration Controller General, ... picture on the right) have received the IAIR award for the "Most ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... ... ... Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a development-stage cancer-focused pharmaceutical company advancing targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) ... all uses of targeted HPLN (Hybrid Polymerized Liposomal Nanoparticle), a technology developed ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... SomaGenics announced the receipt of a Phase ... (Single Cell), expected to be the first commercially available ... from single cells using NGS methods. The NIH,s recent ... development of approaches to analyze the heterogeneity of cell ... for measuring levels of mRNAs in individual cells have ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... ... The award-winning American Farmer television series will feature 3 Bar Biologics in ... 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With global population estimates nearing ten billion people by ... feed a growing nation. At the same time, many of our valuable resources are ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... Phoenix, Arizona (PRWEB) , ... ... ... than 15 years’ experience providing advanced instruments and applications consulting for microscopy ... the in-house expertise in application consulting, Nanoscience Analytical offers a broad range ...
Breaking Biology Technology: