Scientists at U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory are answering that call by working to chemically manipulate algae for production of the next generation of renewable fuels – hydrogen gas.
“We believe there is a fundamental advantage in looking at the production of hydrogen by photosynthesis as a renewable fuel,” senior chemist David Tiede said. “Right now, ethanol is being produced from corn, but generating ethanol from corn is a thermodynamically much more inefficient process.”
Some varieties of algae, a kind of unicellular plant, contain an enzyme called hydrogenase that can create small amounts of hydrogen gas. Tiede said many believe this is used by Nature as a way to get rid of excess reducing equivalents that are produced under high light conditions, but there is little benefit to the plant.
Tiede and his group are trying to find a way to take the part of the enzyme that creates the gas and introduce it into the photosynthesis process.
The result would be a large amount of hydrogen gas, possibly on par with the amount of oxygen created.
“Biology can do it, but it’s making it do it at 5-10 percent yield that’s the problem,” Tiede said. “What we would like to do is take that catalyst out of hydrogenase and put into the photosynthetic protein framework. We are fortunate to have Professor Thomas Rauchfuss as a collaborator from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana who is an expert on the synthesis of hydrogenase active site mimics.”
Algae has several benefits over corn in fuel production. It can be grown in a closed system almost anywhere including deserts or even rooftops, and there is no competition for food or fertile soil. Algae is also easier to harvest because it has no roots or fruit and grows dispersed in water.
“If you have terrestrial plants like corn, you are restricted to where you could grow them,” Tiede said. “There is a problem now with biofuel crops competing with food crops because they are both using the same space. Algae provides an alternative, which can be grown in a closed photobioreactor analogous to a microbial fermentor that you could move any place.”
Tiede admitted the research is its beginning phases, but he is confident in his team and their research goals. The next step is to create a way to attach the catalytic enzyme to the molecule.
Brock Cooper | EurekAlert!
Multiregional brain on a chip
16.01.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter
16.01.2017 | Washington State University
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction