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Crit Rev Microbiol. 2005;31(1):19-31.

The photobiological production of hydrogen: potential efficiency and effectiveness as a renewable fuel.

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ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co., Annandale, New Jersey 08801, USA.


Photosynthetic microorganisms can produce hydrogen when illuminated, and there has been considerable interest in developing this to a commercially viable process. Its appealing aspects include the fact that the hydrogen would come from water, and that the process might be more energetically efficient than growing, harvesting, and processing crops. We review current knowledge about photobiological hydrogen production, and identify and discuss some of the areas where scientific and technical breakthroughs are essential for commercialization. First we describe the underlying biochemistry of the process, and identify some opportunities for improving photobiological hydrogen production at the molecular level. Then we address the fundamental quantum efficiency of the various processes that have been suggested, technological issues surrounding large-scale growth of hydrogen-producing microorganisms, and the scale and efficiency on which this would have to be practiced to make a significant contribution to current energy use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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