The EU is funding SOLAR-H, a new research network focusing on discovering and developing new methods of producing hydrogen. The research will span artificial photosynthesis in man-made chemical systems and photo-biological H2 production using living organisms.
The research goals are to develop “novel, as yet unproven or even non-existing routes” for hydrogen production from solar energy and water.
The stated political/economic hope is to link fragmented European research and provide a critical mass of expertise needed to challenge and perform ahead of the US.
Funded under the New and Emerging Science and Technology (NEST) priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), SOLAR-H brings together experts from five EU countries and Switzerland in fields ranging from genetics and molecular biology to biophysics and organo-metallic and physical chemistry.
The consortium will initially comprise four teams pursuing concurrent research.
The first team will study living cyanobacteria, an alga. (Earlier post) The alga’s metabolism will be altered at genetic level so it can produce hydrogen without absorbing it at the same time.
The second team will study the mechanisms of natural photosynthesis at the biochemical level.
The third team will synthesise the molecule complexes necessary to imitate the natural process.
The fourth team will study rapid and complex reactions using a series of different physical methods of measurement.
We think artificial photosynthesis has tremendous potential, even though it remains to be demonstrated. It’s a scientific challenge, and if we succeed, the market will be gigantic.—Professor Leif Hammarström