Electron microscopy image of a densely packed droplet of hydrogen-producing algal cells. Scale bar, 10 micrometres.
Prof Xin Huang, Harbin Institute of Technology
Scientists have built tiny droplet-based microbial factories that produce hydrogen, instead of oxygen, when exposed to daylight in air.
Normally, algal cells fix carbon dioxide and produce oxygen by photosynthesis. The study used sugary droplets packed with living algal cells to generate hydrogen, rather than oxygen, by photosynthesis.
Hydrogen is potentially a climate-neutral fuel, offering many possible uses as a future energy source. A major drawback is that making hydrogen involves using a lot of energy, so green alternatives are being sought and this discovery could provide an important step forward.
The team, comprising Professor Stephen Mann and Dr Mei Li from Bristol’s School of Chemistry together with Professor Xin Huang and colleagues at Harbin Institute of Technology in China, trapped around 10,000 algal cells in each droplet, which were then crammed together by osmotic compression. By burying the cells deep inside the droplets, oxygen levels fell to a level that switched on special enzymes called hydrogenases that hijacked the normal photosynthetic pathway to produce hydrogen. In this way, around a quarter of a million microbial factories, typically only one-tenth of a millimetre in size, could be prepared in one millilitre of water.
To increase the level of hydrogen evolution, the team coated the living micro-reactors with a thin shell of bacteria, which were able to scavenge for oxygen and therefore increase the number of algal cells geared up for hydrogenase activity.
Although still at an early stage, the work provides a step towards photobiological green energy development under natural aerobic conditions.
Professor Stephen Mann, Co-Director of the Max Planck Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology at Bristol, said: “Using simple droplets as vectors for controlling algal cell organization and photosynthesis in synthetic micro-spaces offers a potentially environmentally benign approach to hydrogen production that we hope to develop in future work.”
Professor Xin Huang at Harbin Institute of Technology added: “Our methodology is facile and should be capable of scale-up without impairing the viability of the living cells. It also seems flexible; for example, we recently captured large numbers of yeast cells in the droplets and used the microbial reactors for ethanol production.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Cummins Hydrogen Technology Powers the Largest Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Electrolyzer in Operation in the Worldon January 26, 2021 at 5:44 pm
Global technology and power solutions leader Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) has provided a 20-megawatt PEM electrolyzer system to generate green hydrogen, ...
- These billionaires believe green hydrogen will provide a carbon-free future for iron ore miningon January 26, 2021 at 11:30 am
Andrew Forrest's groundbreaking speech heralding Fortescue Metals Group's (ASX:FMG) move into green hydrogen for steel production has grabbed headlines.
- Air Liquide inaugurates the world's largest low-carbon hydrogen membrane-based production unit in Canadaon January 26, 2021 at 3:23 am
PRNewswire/ - Air Liquide has completed the construction of the world's largest PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) ...
- Global Anhydrous Hydrogen Fluoride (AHF) Market 2020 Regional Production Volume, Business Operation Data Analysis, Revenue and Growth Rate by 2025on January 26, 2021 at 12:10 am
Jan (CDN Newswire via Comtex) -- Global Anhydrous Hydrogen Fluoride (AHF) Market 2020 by Manufacturers, Type and Application, Forecast to 2025 ...
- Nikola locks in a special APS electricity rate for hydrogen fuel productionon January 21, 2021 at 3:07 am
The new deal helps the H2 producer to move closer to efficient production in Arizona. Nikola Corp. has announced that it has secured a special competitive APS ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Microbial reactors for ethanol production
- E-Fuel Corporation: “Rejected Energy” The Real Culprit Behind Climate Change And How To Stop Iton January 25, 2021 at 6:22 pm
The E-Fuel Corporation, a Texas-based technology firm, has come up with a revolutionary way to repurpose the largest energy source on the planet ‘rejected energy,’ which experts have identified as a ...
- How Kinder Morgan Is Transitioning to the Future of Energyon January 23, 2021 at 7:20 am
Kinder Morgan is currently one of the largest energy-infrastructure companies in North America. It operates 70,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, nearly 10,000 miles of oil and r ...
- Québec Plant Will Turn Green Hydrogen and Waste into Biofuelon January 22, 2021 at 11:45 am
Hydro-Québec has over 60 hydroelectric generating stations with an output of 36,700 megawatts of green power. They are going to use 88 of those megawatts to make green hydrogen, using electrolyzers ...
- Elon Musk is donating $100M to find the best carbon capture technologyon January 21, 2021 at 5:35 pm
It's unclear if this is a contribution to another organization that is putting together a prize such as the Xprize or if this is another Musk-led production ... bacteria to turn it into useable ...
- Elon Musk is donating $100M to find the best carbon capture technologyon January 21, 2021 at 5:22 pm
Elon Musk said Thursday via a tweet that he will donate $100 million towards a prize for the best carbon capture technology. Musk, who recently surpassed Amazon's Jeff Bezos to become the world's ...