While the rest of us have been arguing about this or that form of energy, scientists have been steadily improving the world’s next amazing technology: pond scum power. Actually, hydrogen produced from algae.
Researchers at MIT recently found a way to boost the organism’s hydrogen production by 400%, bringing the process one step closer to a commercial application. Scientist Shuguang Zhang discovered that algae stops producing sugar for it own needs when introduced to an enzyme inhibitor. Instead, it starts dividing water into its parts and producing large amounts of hydrogen.
Algae’s hydrogen production ability was first discovered in the 30s but it was not until 1999 that researchers coerced algae into producing hydrogen for sustained periods of time. Since then, there have been many attempts to improve efficiency. In 2001, A Berkeley professor formed his own algae-hydrogen company and built a 1 litre per hour hydrogen bioreactor. However, efficiency was too low to compete with fossil fuels.
The hope is that this process could cause a revolution of fuel cells or hydrogen powered vehicles. Although hydrogen power has been flirted with, other sources of energy are still required to make the hydrogen in the first place. Now it looks like algae can do the job for us.
According to Mr. Zhang’s team, their process delivers the most hydrogen possible although the findings have yet to be verified by the scientific community. They are optimistic about the application of their discovery and how its simple process could be used by developing countries.