A company in California is commercializing a technology that triggers green algae to use the sun’s energy to extract hydrogen gas from water.
SANTA BARBARA, California, US, 2001-04-25 <SolarAccess.com> Melis Energy is developing a process that was called one of the ten most important discoveries of the year 2000 by Popular Science magazine. The photobiological technology delivers renewable electricity without the use of petroleum products or emissions. “Renewable and environmentally friendly hydrogen production will bring about exciting technological developments in many fields, including the auto industry, electrical power generation and unforeseen future applications,” says chairman and CEO Stephen Kurtzer. “Use of hydrogen fuel will increase employment, stimulate the economy and have a positive impact on the environment.” Melis was formed to take the patent pending technology and develop it to commercial scale. The process of producing hydrogen from algae and other single-cell organisms was developed in January 2000 by Dr. Anastasios Melis, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who reported a metabolic switch that triggers algae to turn sunlight into hydrogen gas. The Melis Laboratory on the Berkeley campus receives funding from the U.S. and California governments, as well as university research dollars. Melis Energy will establish its corporate and engineering headquarters in Santa Barbara, where it will facilitate small-scale commercial operations and large utility photo-bioreactor complexes. The hydrogen fuel will be used to power fuel cells and turbine electric generators. “Imagine if you can, the two most basic and abundant resources on the planet earth, sunlight and water, being used to provide us with the most abundant energy source in the universe . . . pure gaseous hydrogen,” adds Kurtzer.