DIY Algae Hydrogen Kit

Green algae can produce hydrogen gas

DIY Algae/Hydrogen Kit was a first time collaboration between Amy Franceschini and Jonathan Meuser.


Hydrogen gas accumulating from different two different strains of algae. - Jonathan making sure everything is airtight. The system has no pumps and works entirely on gravity and pressure gradients. Image found on Future Farmers' website

Amy was interested in creating a "backyard/DIY" model which would allow people (not only scientists) to produce hydrogen. The notion of people producing their own power is exciting. Researcher, Jonathan Meuser used this opportunity to exhibit a model of "biophotolysis" to test a system in his backyard. His test was a success, in that it produced hydrogen and could demonstrate the process using off the shelf and found supplies.


Algae testing library inside laboratory at UC Berkeley - Comparing two strains of algae and vibrating table to stir the different algae coctails. Image found on Future Farmers' website.

"Green algae can produce hydrogen gas, H2, in a process called "biophotolysis" or "photobiological hydrogen production." This process is carried out by photosynthetic enzymes, which split water to obtain electrons, excite these electrons with photons, and eventually use these electrons to reduce 2H+ to H2. The scientific challenge associated with this approach to hydrogen production is that the enzyme that actually releases the hydrogen, called a "reversible hydrogenase", is sensitive to oxygen. The process of photosynthesis, of course, produces oxygen and this normally stops hydrogen production very quickly in green algae. So, to overcome this problem, we are generating O2-tolerant, H2-producing mutants of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii by various genetic approaches. The ultimate goal of this work is to develop a water-splitting process that will result in a commercial H2-producing system that is cost effective, scalable to large production, non-polluting, and self-sustaining."-Maria Ghirardi