Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hydrogen-making Algae's 'Achilles' Heel' Discovered

Date:
October 1, 2009
Source:
University Of Oxford
Summary:
Scientists have discovered how oxygen stops green algae from producing hydrogen. The findings could help those working towards 'solar H2-farms' in which microorganisms produce hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water.

The hydrogen-producing green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Scientists have discovered how oxygen stops green algae from producing hydrogen. The findings could help those working towards ‘solar H2-farms’ in which microorganisms produce hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water.

Related Articles


An international team of scientists from Oxford University and universities in Germany report their results in two new papers, one in the journal JACS and one in PNAS.

For years scientists have been interested in how we could, potentially, produce hydrogen from just sunlight and water to power vehicles and other devices. One option is to use photosynthetic microorganisms that are able to produce hydrogen as well as starch. Green algae are one of the microorganisms that many have suggested could be turned into living hydrogen factories.

‘The hydrogen-producing enzyme found in green algae, known as an iron-iron hydrogenase, has evolved a structure that makes it particularly susceptible to attacking oxygen molecules,’ said Professor Fraser Armstrong from Oxford University’s Department of Chemistry, an author of both papers. ‘Because oxygen is a major by-product of the hydrogen-making photosynthetic process in such organisms, the build-up of oxygen, which rapidly attacks the active site of the enzyme, quickly brings the hydrogen-making process to an irreversible halt. Our work has revealed the mechanism of this process.’

The team used electrochemical kinetic methods to determine the order of events in which oxygen attacks the active site of an iron-iron hydrogenase found in the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. They combined their observations with data obtained from X-ray absorption spectroscopy. By measuring ripples in the photoelectron energy spectrum of the enzyme under X-ray bombardment they were able to deduce the nature of the damage caused to the active site following attack by oxygen.

Yet while the research reported in PNAS shows just how destructive oxygen is to the enzyme powering green algae’s hydrogen-making process, the team’s research reported in JACS shows that similar hydrogenases produced by other microorganisms may possess greater tolerance to oxygen, sufficient perhaps to survive in the presence of oxygen released during photosynthetic hydrogen production.

Professor Armstrong said: ‘It shows that whilst we may have found a major obstacle along one route to the biological production of hydrogen, this knowledge could help us to identify new routes where nature could suggest an answer to the problem of oxygen’s destructive effect on hydrogen-producing enzymes.’

The team will shortly be publishing the results of similar research into nickel-iron hydrogenases, enzymes related to those that enable blue-green algae to produce hydrogen.

The research was carried out by an international team including Professor Fraser Armstrong, Gabrielle Goldet, Caterina Brandmayr, and Kylie Vincent from Oxford’s Department of Chemistry with researchers from Ruhr Universität Bochum (Germany), and Freie Universität Berlin (Germany).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Oxford. "Hydrogen-making Algae's 'Achilles' Heel' Discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090930175125.htm>.
University Of Oxford. (2009, October 1). Hydrogen-making Algae's 'Achilles' Heel' Discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090930175125.htm
University Of Oxford. "Hydrogen-making Algae's 'Achilles' Heel' Discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090930175125.htm (accessed November 29, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Japan's Mt. Aso Volcano Spews Rocks

Raw: Japan's Mt. Aso Volcano Spews Rocks

AP (Nov. 28, 2014) — A volcano in southern Japan is spewing volcanic magma rocks. A regional weather observatory says this could be Mt. Aso's first magma eruption in 22 years. (Nov. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins