Navigation Links
UT Knoxville and ORNL researchers turn algae into high-temperature hydrogen source

KNOXVILLE -- In the quest to make hydrogen as a clean alternative fuel source, researchers have been stymied about how to create usable hydrogen that is clean and sustainable without relying on an intensive, high-energy process that outweighs the benefits of not using petroleum to power vehicles.

New findings from a team of researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, however, show that photosynthesis the process by which plants regenerate using energy from the sun may function as that clean, sustainable source of hydrogen.

The team, led by Barry Bruce, a professor of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology at UT Knoxville, found that 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 findings are outlined in this week's issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Bruce, who serves as the associate director for UT Knoxville's Sustainable Energy and Education Research Center, notes that we already get most of our energy from photosynthesis, albeit indirectly.

The fossil fuels of today were once, millions of years ago, energy-rich plant matter whose growth also was supported by the sun via the process of photosynthesis. There have been efforts to shorten this process, namely through the creation of biomass fuels that harvest plants and covert their hydrocarbons into ethanol or biodiesel.

"Biofuel as many people think of it now -- harvesting plants and converting their woody material into sugars which get distilled into combustible liquids -- probably cannot replace gasoline as a major source of fuel," said Bruce. "We found that our process is more direct and has the potential to create a much larger quantity of fuel using much less energy, which has a wide range of benefits."

A major benefit of Bruce's method is that it cuts out two key middlemen in the process of using plants' solar conversion abilities. The first middle man is the time required for a plant to capture solar energy, grow and reproduce, then die and eventually become fossil fuel. The second middle man is energy, in this case the substantial amount of energy required to cultivate, harvest and process plant material into biofuel. Bypassing these two options and directly using the plant or algae's built-in solar system to create clean fuel can be a major step forward.

Other scientists have studied the possibility of using photosynthesis as a hydrogen source, but have not yet found a way to make the reaction occur efficiently at the high temperatures that would exist in a large system designed to harness sunlight.

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.

"As both a dean and a chemist, I am very impressed with this recent work by Professor Bruce and his colleagues," said Bruce Bursten, dean of UT Knoxville's College of Arts and Sciences. "Hydrogen has the potential to be the cleanest fuel alternative to petroleum, with no greenhouse gas production, and we need new innovations that allow for hydrogen to be readily produced from non-hydrocarbon sources. Professor Bruce and his team have provided a superb example of how excellence in basic research can contribute significantly to technological and societal advances."


Contact: Jay Mayfield
University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Related biology technology :

1. UT Knoxville Wins $16M Mathematics and Biology Center
2. Berkeley researchers take the lead out of piezoelectrics
3. 80% of Researchers Surveyed Believe Their Laboratories Are Not Run Efficiently
4. Pitt-led researchers create nanoparticle coating to prevent freezing rain buildup
5. Berkeley researchers find new route to nano self-assembly
6. Small ... smaller ... smallest? ASU researchers create molecular diode
7. Researchers Present a Novel, Automated, Efficient Environmental Disinfection Technology that Significantly Reduces C. difficile, VRE and MRSA Contamination
8. Researchers create smaller and more efficient nuclear battery
9. Researchers Use Oragene●DNA to Find Genetic Link to Neglected Tropical Disease
10. Researchers prolong the plasma half-life of biopharmaceutical proteins
11. Researchers design new graphene-based, nanomaterial with magnetic properties
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
UT Knoxville and ORNL researchers turn algae into high-temperature hydrogen source
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by its Executive Council, has ... Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , FPV racing has exploded ... of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined the community because of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015  Tikcro Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) today announced that ... 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Israel time, at the ... Yigal Allon Street, 36 th Floor, Tel Aviv, Israel ... Paneth and Izhak Tamir to the Board of Directors; ... external directors; , approval of an amendment to certain terms of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Switzerland (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... plant and the environment are paramount. Insertion points for in-line sensors can represent ... has developed the InTrac 781/784 series of retractable sensor housings , which ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... LAVAL, QC , Nov. 24, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - ... the "Corporation") announced today that Mr. Pierre Laurin , ... a corporate presentation at the upcoming Piper Jaffray 27 th ... York Palace Hotel, on December 1-2, 2015. ... be available for one-on-one meetings throughout the day. The presentation ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:10/27/2015)... , Oct. 27, 2015 Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... today announced that Google has adopted the Synaptics ® ... controller solutions to power its newest flagship smartphones, the ... Huawei. --> --> ... Google to provide strategic collaboration in the joint development ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... , Oct. 26, 2015  Delta ID Inc., a ... to mobile and PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology ... arrows NX F-02H launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in ... is the second smartphone to include iris recognition technology, ... ARROWS NX F-04G in May 2015, world,s first smartphone ...
(Date:10/22/2015)... (NASDAQ: AWRE ), a leading supplier of biometrics software and ... 30, 2015.  --> --> ... decrease of 33% compared to $6.0 million in the same quarter ... $2.2 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, which compared to $2.6 ... year ago.  --> --> ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):