H2 Production by Phototropic Algae

This joint research project with Princeton and the University of Hawaii is focused on photosynthetic organisms that can synthesize a diverse portfolio of energy carriers. Phototropic microalgae possess the capacity to oxidize water into O2, protons, and low-potential reductant. The electrons mobilized by photosynthesis are used to fix CO2 into energy-rich organic molecules such as starch or lipids. Starch may be fermented into a host of bio-energy molecules such as ethanol, butanol, and methane, and lipids may be converted into biodiesel. Moreover, microalgae are unique in that H2 production can be coupled directly to the photosynthetic electron transport chain, providing the means to generate H2 using only sunlight and water.