Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Water and sunlight: The formula for sustainable fuel

Date:
August 21, 2014
Source:
Australian National University
Summary:
Scientists have replicated one of the crucial steps in photosynthesis, opening the way for biological systems powered by sunlight which could manufacture hydrogen as a fuel.

Dr. Kastoori Hingorani is shown in her lab at the Research School of Biology at Australian National University.
Credit: Stuart Hay, ANU

An Australian National University (ANU) team has successfully replicated one of the crucial steps in photosynthesis, opening the way for biological systems powered by sunlight which could manufacture hydrogen as a fuel.

"Water is abundant and so is sunlight. It is an exciting prospect to use them to create hydrogen, and do it cheaply and safely," said Dr Kastoori Hingorani, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis in the ANU Research School of Biology.

Hydrogen offers potential as a zero-carbon replacement for petroleum products, and is already used for launching space craft. However, until this work, the way that plants produce hydrogen by splitting water has been poorly understood.

The team created a protein which, when exposed to light, displays the electrical heartbeat that is the key to photosynthesis.

The system uses a naturally-occurring protein and does not need batteries or expensive metals, meaning it could be affordable in developing countries, Dr Hingorani said.

Co-researcher Professor Ron Pace said the research opened up new possibilities for manufacturing hydrogen as a cheap and clean source of fuel.

"This is the first time we have replicated the primary capture of energy from sunlight," Professor Pace said.

"It's the beginning of a whole suite of possibilities, such as creating a highly efficient fuel, or to trapping atmospheric carbon."

Professor Pace said large amounts of hydrogen fuel produced by artificial photosynthesis could transform the economy.

"That carbon-free cycle is essentially indefinitely sustainable. Sunlight is extraordinarily abundant, water is everywhere -- the raw materials we need to make the fuel. And at the end of the usage cycle it goes back to water," he said.

The team modified a much-researched and ubiquitous protein, Ferritin, which is present in almost all living organisms.

Ferritin's usual role is to store iron, but the team removed the iron and replaced it with the abundant metal, manganese, to closely resemble the water splitting site in photosynthesis.

The protein also binds a haem group, which the researchers replaced with a light-sensitive pigment, Zinc Chlorin.

When they shone light onto the modified ferritin, there was a clear indication of charge transfer just like in natural photosynthesis.

The possibilities inspired visionary researcher Associate Professor Warwick Hillier, who led the research group until his death from brain cancer, earlier this year.

"Associate Professor Hillier imagined modifying E. coli so that it expresses the gene to create ready-made artificial photosynthetic proteins. It would be a self-replicating system -- all you need to do is shine light on it," Dr Hingorani said.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Kastoori Hingorani, Ron Pace, Spencer Whitney, James W. Murray, Paul Smith, Mun Hon Cheah, Tom Wydrzynski, Warwick Hillier. Photo-oxidation of tyrosine in a bio-engineered bacterioferritin ‘reaction centre’—A protein model for artificial photosynthesis. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Bioenergetics, 2014; 1837 (10): 1821 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2014.07.019

Cite This Page:

Australian National University. "Water and sunlight: The formula for sustainable fuel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140821090701.htm>.
Australian National University. (2014, August 21). Water and sunlight: The formula for sustainable fuel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140821090701.htm
Australian National University. "Water and sunlight: The formula for sustainable fuel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140821090701.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Frustration As Drone Industry Outpaces Regulation In U.S.

Frustration As Drone Industry Outpaces Regulation In U.S.

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) U.S. firms worry they’re falling behind in the marketplace as the FAA considers how to regulate commercial drones. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Gun Innovators Fear Backlash From Gun Rights Advocates

Smart Gun Innovators Fear Backlash From Gun Rights Advocates

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) Winners of a contest for smart gun design are asking not to be named after others in the industry received threats for marketing similar products. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Captured The Sound Of An Atom

Scientists Have Captured The Sound Of An Atom

Newsy (Sep. 12, 2014) Scientists have captured the sound of a single atom by measuring its vibrations. We can't hear it, but it's reportedly the faintest sound possible. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Flare Surges Off Sun

Solar Flare Surges Off Sun

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 11, 2014) NASA captures video of a significant flare surging off the sun. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:
from the past week

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