Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden claim to have used a "completely new method" in synthesising artificial enzymes and converting solar energy into hydrogen gas.
Reported in a new scientific study published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, the researchers describe how the enzymes - which function in the metabolism of living cells - can utilise the cell's own energy, and thus enable hydrogen gas to be produced from solar energy.
Evolution has already developed and refined a tool for capturing sunlight through photosynthesis
Hydrogen gas has long been noted as a promising energy carrier, but its production is still dependent on fossil raw materials. Renewable hydrogen gas can be extracted from water, but as yet the systems for doing so have limitations.
This entirely new method has been developed at the University over the past few years, the scientists said.
The technique is based on photosynthetic microorganisms with genetically inserted enzymes that are combined with synthetic compounds produced in the laboratory. Synthetic biology has been combined with synthetic chemistry to design and create custom artificial enzymes inside living organisms.
By introducing our artificial enzyme into photosynthetic cyanobacteria we can directly benefit from this efficient process, thus producing hydrogen gas from solar energy
"We've now been able to use the method we developed to produce enzymes that use the cell's own energy to produce hydrogen gas," said Adam Wegelius, a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry at the Ångström Laboratory at the University.
Senior lecturer Gustav Berggren and professor Peter Lindblad have been jointly leading the research. Berggren said that it is a process that we can instantly benefit from.
"Evolution has already developed and refined a tool for capturing sunlight through photosynthesis," he added.
"And by introducing our artificial enzyme into photosynthetic cyanobacteria we can directly benefit from this efficient process, thus producing hydrogen gas from solar energy.
"We've developed a completely new method, which allows us to go beyond the solutions offered by evolution and nature, in our development of artificial enzymes."
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