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Harvesting Solar Energy: Hydrogen production by a semi-artificial photo-system

The Technology

An artificial ferredoxin-hydrogenase fusion enzyme (Fd-HydA) has been developed for the production of hydrogen gas in algae.  The Fd-HydA fusion enzyme interferes with the formation of the naturally occurring ferredoxin-sugar production pathway in photosystem I (PSI) complex and shuttles the donated electrons directly to the hydrogenase as shown in in vitro studies.  Preliminary expression of Fd-HydA in algae supports hydrogen production.   

Stage of Development

  • Fd-HydA fusion enzyme has been constructed and expressed in E. coli and evidence of electron transfer has been demonstrated in vitro 
  • Fd-HydA fusion protein increases rate of hydrogen photoproduction by 400% in vitro
  • Fd-HydA fusion protein has specific activities of 3000 U (U = 1 µmol hydrogen mg−1 min−1) for hydrogen evolution from reduced methyl viologen (MV).
  • Fd-HydA fusion enzyme is expressed and active in alga (preliminary work). 

These results suggest a new direction for improvement of biohydrogen production and a means to further resolve the mechanisms that control partitioning of photosynthetic electron transport. 

Patent Status 

WO2010/137019  (US, EP)

WO 2009/013745 (US)