Episode Summary

Microalgae can produce hydrogen, but other metabolic pathways take priority, except when special engineered hydrogenase enzymes can overcome this limitation!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Alphapapillomavirus 11

Jesse's takeaways

There are many options being explored as ways to replace fossil fuels. Electricity and batteries are good, but they have their limitations, especially for long-distance high-energy travel such as airplanes. Hydrogen is one good option: high energy density, clean-burning, simple to produce. Microbes can produce hydrogen through various metabolic pathways, including fermentation, nitrogen fixation byproduct, and photosynthesis. However, competing metabolic pathways make microbial hydrogen production less efficient.

In this study, scientists engineer a hydrogenase enzyme for hydrogen production in microalgae that can compete better with carbon fixation as a destination for the electrons and protons that hydrogen production requires. This engineered enzyme allowed the algae to produce hydrogen continuously, even during photosynthesis.

Journal Paper

Ben-Zvi O, Dafni E, Feldman Y, Yacoby I. 2019. Re-routing photosynthetic energy for continuous hydrogen production in vivo. Biotechnol Biofuels 12:266.

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