Engineering Photosynthetic Organisms for the Production of Biohydrogen

Alexandra Dubini, Maria Ghirardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus Citations


Oxygenic photosynthetic organisms such as green algae are capable of absorbing sunlight and converting the chemical energy into hydrogen gas. This process takes advantage of the photosynthetic apparatus of these organisms which links water oxidation to H2 production. Biological H2 has therefore the potential to be an alternative fuel of the future and shows great promise for generating large scale sustainable energy. Microalgae are able to produce H2 under light anoxic or dark anoxic condition by activating 3 different pathways that utilize the hydrogenases as catalysts. In this review, we highlight the principal barriers that prevent hydrogen production in green algae and how those limitations are being addressed, through metabolic and genetic engineering. We also discuss the major challenges and bottlenecks facing the development of future commercial algal photobiological systems for H2 production. Finally we provide suggestions for future strategies and potential new techniques to be developed towards an integrated system with optimized hydrogen production.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)241-253
Number of pages13
JournalPhotosynthesis Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-60901


  • Electron transfer
  • Genetic engineering
  • Green algae
  • H metabolism
  • Hydrogenases


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