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Researchers discover two novel algal strains that can produce hydrogen under aerobic conditions

Eukaryotic algae and cyanobacteria can produce hydrogen under anaerobic and limited aerobic conditions. Now, a research team from South Korea and the US reports finding two novel microalgal strains (Chlorella vulgaris YSL01 and YSL16) that can produce hydrogen via photosynthesis using CO2 as the sole source of carbon under aerobic conditions with continuous illumination.

A paper on their discovery is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Hydrogenases, the enzymes which produce molecular hydrogen, typically are inactivated by oxygen; the new strains can produce hydrogen due to an oxygen-tolerant hydrogenase under natural aquatic conditions for microalgae.

The experimental expression of HYDA and the specific activity of hydrogenase demonstrate that C. vulgaris YSL01 and YSL16 enzymatically produce hydrogen, even under atmospheric conditions, which was previously considered infeasible. Photoautotrophic H2 production has important implications for assessing ecological and algae-based photolysis.

—Hwang et al.


  • Hwang, J-H. et al. (2014) “Photoautotrophic hydrogen production by eukaryotic microalgae under aerobic conditions.” Nature Communications doi: 10.1038/ncomms4234


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