This is the age of hydrogen fuel, thanks to its abundance and impressive zero-emission credentials. With companies like Toyota and Hyundai coming up with futuristic hydrogen-powered vehicles, scientists across the world are working to make this incredible clean energy more readily available. To that end, researchers from Tel Aviv University have developed new strains of algae that are capable of producing up to five times more hydrogen than regular varieties.
These organisms are known to emit hydrogen as a result of photosynthesis. In most cases, however, only a minute amount of the gas is generated over small periods of time. According to Iftach Yacoby, the leader of the research team, certain types of microalgae actually produce hydrogen during daytime, with the help of the enzyme hydrogenase. However, exposure to oxygen usually causes this enzyme to break down, thereby affecting the quantity of hydrogen released.
As part of the current research, scientists have devised three, innovative techniques to remove the ambient oxygen, in order to enhance the enzyme’s efficiency. The breakthrough, Yacoby believes, “makes it clear that algae have a huge underutilized potential for the production of hydrogen fuel”. To further increase amount of hydrogen generated, the team genetically modified the microorganisms, enabling them to produce larger quantities of hydrogenase.
Thanks to the breakthrough, the new algal strains can create nearly 400-percent more hydrogenase than regular algae. At present, the researchers are trying to find the best way to cultivate different species of microalgae on a large scale. Energy derived from these microscopic organisms could in turn be used to power the next generation of cars as well as “to drive the wheels of industry”. Speaking about the research, Yacoby said:
Twenty thousand years ago, the agricultural revolution took place. Man ceased being a hunter-gatherer. He domesticated plant species from nature and began to grow his own food. But when it comes to energy, we are still collecting from what nature gives us – so far mainly polluting fossil fuels, whose supplies are dwindling rapidly.
Via: The Jerusalem Post