Photosynthetic Biohydrogen, An All-Worlds Solution to Global Energy Production

EPA Grant Number: SU833168
Title: Photosynthetic Biohydrogen, An All-Worlds Solution to Global Energy Production
Investigators: Frymier, Paul , Bruce, Barry , Counce, Robert
Current Investigators: Frymier, Paul , Alliowe, Nickyla M. , Bruce, Barry , Counce, Robert , Lowe, Chris , Macdonald, Linda , Raeiszadeh, Mehrsa , Thompson, Latoyia
Institution: University of Tennessee - Knoxville
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: October 1, 2006 through April 30, 2007
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


There is no more pressing problem for future generations in the third, developing, and industrialized worlds than securing a sustainable, abundant energy supply. Hydrogen has emerged as a potential energy carrier, but a sustainable and efficient method of producing it needs to be identified. Photosynthetic algae can be made to produce molecular hydrogen under the proper conditions. We propose to demonstrate the feasibility of using algae to produce hydrogen by designing a biohydrogen facility to produce sufficient transportation fuel for a city of 100,000 people. In addition to the paper design study, we will construct a small scale photobioreactor system to demonstrate the concept. If the design proves feasible, it will demonstrate that biohydrogen can be produced sustainably without co-producing ozone-depleting carbon dioxide and can provide energy security for all worlds. The implementation of such a system will remove threats to human health and prosperity due to insufficient energy for food and medicine storage and distribution and due to potential human-induced global warming. The technology is well-suited for implementation in the third world due to the lack of a requirement for sophisticated materials; the base material of photosynthesis (alga) produces itself and the primary raw material for production, sunlight, is freely available. The success of the implementation will be judged by the estimated cost and footprint of the proposed facility. The design will be evaluated by comparison to other sustainable energy production methods. The feasibility will be demonstrated by the construction of a pilot-scale system. The P3 concepts and project results will be used as case studies in current and new courses in chemical engineering as well as providing a synergistic activity for the local East Tennessee Hydrogen Initiative.

Supplemental Keywords:

alternatives, sustainable development, renewable, biology, engineering, transportation,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Environmental Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, algae, photobioreactor, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, alternative fuel, energy technology, alternative energy source, biofuel, biohydrogen, pollution prevention

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report