Researchers develop droplet-based biological factories that churn out hydrogen fuel
The latest clean energy invention may be as green as it comes. By jam-packing photosynthetic algae into sugary droplets of water, scientists are developing mini biological factories that pump out hydrogen that could be used as a source of carbon-neutral energy. It can be a safe means of processing hydrogen fuel with zero emissions.
Researchers from Harbin Institute of Technology in China and the University of Bristol have created droplet-based biological factories made of living photosynthetic algae.
Carbon-neutral fuel may be hydrogen. But using a lot of energy is important. The alges will stop generating oxygen and release hydrogen packed with energy under precisely tuned conditions in the water droplet. So it’s not eco-friendly if it’s not made from renewable fuels. That’s why academics are hunting for renewable options – and find possible candidates like the detection of algae droplets. While the small factories are much too small to fuel our homes or vehicles for the time being the study indicates that the technology scales up to a potential source of renewable clean energy.
Photosynthesis typically transforms carbohydrates into oxygen. The researchers at the University of Bristol and the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, however, discovered that hydrogen is produced instead by algae packed together within a water droplet. It’s because oxygen atoms aren’t enough to inhibit traditional photosynthesis reactions, ensuring the enzymes that yield hydrogen take over.
Around ten thousand algal cells were caught in a droplet and a number of droplets were then filled together with osmotic compression. The restricted condition left cells in such need of oxygen that hydrogenases were turned on – enzymes that mask the natural course of photosynthetic energy to generate hydrogen.
The scientists have lacquered the living micro-reactors with a thin foil of bacteria which consume oxygen to improve the amount of hydrogen that cells generate, thereby increasing the reliability of algae cells in producing hydrogen. From one step forward, scientists have covered their biological plants with oxygen-consuming bacteria, which have led the algae to make hydrogen more reliable.
Again, water droplet factories are not going to end our oil shortage or stop emissions of greenhouse gas all by themselves. However, scientists expect the concept to operate on a wider scale, eventually reducing hydrogen fuel cell costs.
The co-author of the study and biologist from Bristol Stephen Mann said in a press release: “The use of simple droplets as the vectors for the management and the photosynthesis of algal cells in synthetic micro spaces provides a potentially environmentally beneficial approach to hydrogen production, which we expect to improve in future work.
Research has yet to commence, but research contributes to the production of renewable photobiological energy under natural aerobic circumstances. Water droplet industries are definitely not going to end our oil crisis. However, if the team were able to get the project to operate on a wide scale, it will minimize hydrogen fuel prices that will help to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gas.