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:1/7/2016)... Jan. 7, 2016 This BCC Research report ... biometric technologies and devices, identifying newer markets and exploring ... types of biometric devices. Includes forecast from 2015 to ... newer markets and explore the expansion of the present ... each type of biometric technology, determine its current market ...
(Date:1/7/2016)... -- A United States District Court in Illinois ... to interpret a biometric privacy statute in a decision ... photo website Shutterfly brought by the law firm Carey Rodriguez ... SHUTTERFLY, INC.; and THISLIFE, INC ( N.D. Ill ., ... Illinois Biometric Privacy Act by collecting and scanning face ...
(Date:1/6/2016)... Calif. , Jan. 6, 2016 ... biometrics market, Frost & Sullivan recognizes MorphoTrak, LLC, ... 2015 North American Frost & Sullivan Company of ... contactless fingerprint scanning technology, Morpho Wave™ , has ... in the fingerprint biometrics market. Morpho Wave ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/8/2016)... 8, 2016 --> ... an innovation-driven oncology company developing next generation cancer ... today announced that chairman emeritus of Tata Sons ... the company as part of the first close ... investors Navam Capital and Aarin Capital. ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... Md. , Feb. 8, 2016  BioElectronics ... consumer medical devices, announced today that it is ... administrative proceedings from the Securities and Exchange Commission ... Richard Staelin , Chairman of the Board of ... Professor of Business Administration at The Fuqua School ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... ... February 08, 2016 , ... Franz Inc. ... Graph Database technology, today announced the availability of AllegroGraph 6, the leading Semantic ... Cloudera Certified Technology Program (CCPT). AllegroGraph is the first Semantic Graph ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... Pharmacy, Inc. (NYSE: DPLO) announced today that its new website has gone live. On Thursday, Feb. ... Visit the new site: www.diplomat.is ... ... ... "The goal was to reimagine the website and create a ...
Breaking Biology Technology: