Israel makes green fuel from algae

[Israel] Algae has been engineered to produce large amounts of hydrogen — potentially turning pond scum into fuel.

The discovery by a team of researchers at Tel Aviv university could lead to a clean-burning energy for industry and vehicles. Scientists have long known that algae produce hydrogen but believed that the process occurred for a few minutes at dawn and the enzyme responsible, hydrogenase, died once the sun rose and photosynthesis began.

Iftach Yacoby and his team discovered that the enzyme actually survives and the process continues throughout the day, albeit at a lower level.

They genetically engineered a strain of alga to produce more of the enzyme, which quadrupled its hydrogen output. A square metre of the stuff could pump out four kilograms of hydrogen each year.

Dr Yacoby estimates that genetically engineered algae could one day produce a kilogram of hydrogen for $3. Even with distribution costs, it would take only $20 to fill the tank on a Toyota Mirai, a new hydrogen-powered sedan with a range of about 300 miles.

Dr Yacoby said that the technology would not be commercially viable for 10 to 15 years but added that our ancestors stopped hunting and gathering because they grew food, “so why do we behave like our prehistoric ancestors and hunt energy?”

The findings were published in the journal Plant Physiology.


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