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In the absence of light, microorganisms such as bacteria break down organic matter to produce hydrogen gas through dark fermentation. Bacteria can be engineered in order to increase metabolic activity for a higher hydrogen production rate.


Technology

What is it?

In the absence of light, microorganisms such as bacteria break down organic matter to produce hydrogen gas through dark fermentation. Bacteria can be engineered in order to increase metabolic activity for a higher hydrogen production rate.

Why is it important?

Dark fermentation allows the production of hydrogen using biomass as a feedstock, without requiring exposure to sunlight. System tanks and cells could be transported for on-site hydrogen generation.

Applications

  • Smaller footprint than light-dependent methods
  • Can use a variety of waste resources
  • No light required for process to occur
  • Simple reactor design
  • Functions without requiring strict anaerobic conditions
  • Biocatalysts are inexpensive and biodegradable
  • Process occurs at ambient temperature and pressure
  • Can transport systems for on-site hydrogen generation

Intellectual property

  • Smaller footprint than light-dependent methods
  • Can use a variety of waste resources
  • No light required for process to occur
  • Simple reactor design
  • Functions without requiring strict anaerobic conditions
  • Biocatalysts are inexpensive and biodegradable
  • Process occurs at ambient temperature and pressure
  • Can transport systems for on-site hydrogen generation

The team

  • Bacteria must be kept within survivable conditions
  • Increasing yield requires very low hydrogen partial pressure to overcome thermodynamic restrictions
  • Hydrogen consuming microbes must be effectively suppressed to ensure harvestable yield of hydrogen can be realised
  • Note: The TRL of this technology is 7 for conventional dark fermentation, however lower (TRL 5-6) when incorporating metabolic engineering as part of the system design

RD&D priorities

  • Improve hydrogen yield
  • Improve production rate
  • Metabolic engineering of bacteria to improve performance, or suppress activity of hydrogen-consuming bacteria
  • Condition optimisation and robustness testing

Known active organisations

  • CSIRO
  • Macquarie University

Other opportunities like this

  • Electrical energy produced by microbes via breakdown of organic matter are augmented with a small additional current to facilitate proton reduction forming hydrogen gas.

  • Microorganisms such as green algae and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) split water into hydrogen and oxygen via direct or indirect bio-photolysis.

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