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Biological hydrogen production using genetically engineered microorganisms – ARENA award to Macquarie University researchers

Researchers from Macquarie University are leading a multimillion dollar ($2.8m) project to fine tune biological production of hydrogen using genetically engineered microorganisms.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has just announced the award of a $1.1m Research and development grant for the project under their Renewable hydrogen for export program. The project is supported by further funding from BOC and Bioplatforms Australia.

Hydrogen is a colourless, odourless, non-toxic gas that can be used as an energy source. The use of hydrogen gas is a clean and energy efficient process with no net impact on atmospheric CO2 levels. Indeed, in comparison to other heavy Carbon emitting fuels such as coal or petrol, the use of hydrogen as fuel is carbon neutral with the only by product released being water.

The hydrogen industry is an important component in the Australian national agenda vision for clean energy. Worldwide interest has been stirred by fresh developments and research directions. Dr Alan Finkel AO, the Chair of Hydrogen Strategy group and Australian Chief Scientist recently led a briefing paper titled Hydrogen for Australia’s future for the COAG energy council outlining the opportunities presented by the hydrogen industry for Australia’s future economy.

However, the limiting step at the moment is the production of hydrogen, as the gas is not found as a free source in the environment. Production currently requires input/consumption of energy and is the reason why hydrogen is labelled as an energy carrier. Furthermore, several avenues of hydrogen production have various levels of CO2 release or energy input.

This 3 year project aims to establish a commercially viable process for hydrogen production, using sugars from renewable sources (glucose and other carbohydrates) for hydrogen conversion. The process will optimise the rates/speed of hydrogen production and efficiency/yields of production.

Further details on the announcement and the project can be found on the ARENA website and on the Macquarie University Newsroom

Andrew Gilbert |

French Island Koala, picture by Greta Frankham, copyright Australian Museum

View the announcement of the ARENA grant here

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