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Don't Call it Pond Scum; It's a Hydrogen Factory

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posted on Feb, 24 2006 @ 03:06 PM
A new strain of algae, known as C. reinhardtii, has been engineered by researchers at UC, Berkeley, that has the potential to produce hydrogen in commercially viable amounts. It's not as crazy as it sounds. Algae is already used to produce chemicals used in the cosmetics industry and pharmaceutical companies are looking toward using algae as a cheap and clean source of drugs. Furthermore, algae can produce oils that can be turned into biodiesel that does not add CO2 to the atmosphere.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have engineered a strain of pond scum that could, with further refinements, produce vast amounts of hydrogen through photosynthesis.

The work, led by plant physiologist Tasios Melis, is so far unpublished. But if it proves correct, it would mean a major breakthrough in using algae as an industrial factory, not only for hydrogen, but for a wide range of products, from biodiesel to cosmetics.

The new strain of algae, known as C. reinhardtii, has truncated chlorophyll antennae within the chloroplasts of the cells, which serves to increase the organism's energy efficiency. In addition, it makes the algae a lighter shade of green, which in turn allows more sunlight deeper into an algal culture and therefore allows more cells to photosynthesize.

It really does seem that we are on the verge of producing technologies that could sustain our energy needs far into the future. Much work remains to be done, but it is reassuring that there are folks out there busting heavies to get the job done. It's exciting to think about, anyway.

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[edit on 2006/2/24 by GradyPhilpott] extra DIV


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