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:
- Making hydrogen energy with the common nickelon January 12, 2021 at 1:41 pm
To resolve the energy crisis and environmental issues, research to move away from fossil fuels and convert to eco-friendly and sustainable hydrogen energy is well underway around the world. Recently, ...
- Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Market Analysis with Key Players, Applications, Trends and Forecasts to 2026on January 12, 2021 at 1:37 pm
Selbyville, Delaware, The 2020-2025 report on Global Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Market explores the essential factors of the industry covering current scenario, market demand information, coverage of ...
- Nikola Positioned To Accelerate Hydrogen Economyon January 12, 2021 at 1:36 pm
PRNewswire/ -- Nikola Corporation (NASDAQ: NKLA) has secured an innovative electric rate schedule with Arizona Public ...
- OGE, Thyssenkrupp and Equinor hatch hydrogen plan for Duisburg steelon January 12, 2021 at 12:56 pm
German gas transmission system operator OGE, steel producer Thyssenkrupp and Norwegian energy company Equinor on Tuesday said they would deepen cooperation to help cut carbon emissions from a ...
- CF Industries Joins Hydrogen Council to Further Commitment to Clean Energy Economyon January 12, 2021 at 10:42 am
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CF) today announced that it has joined the Hydrogen Council, a global CEO-led initiative that brings together leading companies with a united vision and long-term ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Microbial reactors for ethanol production
- UCF researchers use advanced light to reveal how different biofuels behaveon January 12, 2021 at 8:19 am
Vehicles have evolved to become more efficient and sophisticated, but their fuel hasn't necessarily evolved along with them. The Department of Energy is determined to identify cleaner burning and ...
- Inspired by kombucha tea, engineers create 'living materials'on January 11, 2021 at 8:02 am
Engineers at MIT and Imperial College London have developed a new way to generate tough, functional materials using a mixture of bacteria and yeast similar to the "kombucha mother" used to ferment tea ...
- The New Downstream Industry – Challenges and Opportunities Aheadon January 10, 2021 at 6:43 am
Introduction and Context The current scenario present great challenges to the crude oil refining industry, prices volatility of raw material, pressure from society to reduce environmental ...
- Team Uncovers Way to Turn Carbon Monoxide Waste Into Biofuelon January 6, 2021 at 4:01 pm
such as the process for coking coal in the production of steel. “The microbial cells then turn it into ethanol, an organic molecule,” Aristilde said. “And carbon monoxide, an inorganic molecule, turns ...
- GWTI Notified of GTL Patent Allowanceon January 6, 2021 at 2:07 am
(OTCQB: GWTI), an advanced gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology development company, today announced receipt of a Notice of Allowance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for another of its ...