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Hydrogen gas is one of the most promising transportable fuel sources. It burns clean and has remarkably high energy density. Biologically derived hydrogen became a sustainable alternative to fossil fuel in 1999, with the discovery of microalgae cultures, which can continuously catalyze photo hydrogen production. Unfortunately, economic viability is still out of reach. We need a five-fold improvement to go to market. Dr. Iftach Yacoby and his team are bio-engineering algae that can efficiently turn light energy into hydrogen. Early lab results demonstrated a boosted hydrogen production rate that exceeds 400%.

"Hydrogen offers a clean solution to our power needs. It's the planet's most abundant element — each molecule of water contains two atoms of hydrogen. It is released naturally in the biological process of photosynthesis. Not only is it abundant, unadulterated hydrogen can generate electricity in fuel cells of next-generation electric cars, or combined with carbon dioxide, can create methane and other fuels.

In order to manipulate a system, one must understand how it works. For three billion years, photosynthesis has maintained oxygen levels in the atmosphere, limited greenhouse effects, and provided the primary source of food—plant life. In the process of photosynthesis the energy of the sun splits water molecules to release hydrogen. Hydrogen is a byproduct of the photosynthesis process. Its production is secondary to the process of converting carbon dioxide into the sugar that the organism needs to live and grow as well as other processes that compete for the energy current.

Can these competing processes be altered such that the production of hydrogen takes precedence? Preliminary research by scientists is affirmative. Scientists introduced a various bypasses and were able to show superior hydrogen production. At my group a synthetic enzyme suppresses sugar production to a tolerable amount for the organism, at the same time redirecting its energies into increasing hydrogen production by 400%. This and other revolutionary approaches are simple enough that they could be adopted around the world as a source of inexpensive fuel.

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