Artificial leaf device for hydrogen generation from immobilised C. reinhardtii microalgae†
We developed a fully biomimetic leaf-like device for hydrogen production which allows incorporated fabric-immobilised microalgae culture to be simultaneously hydrated with media and harvested from the produced hydrogen in a continuous flow regime without the need to replace the algal culture. Our leaf device produces hydrogen by direct photolysis of water resulting from redirecting the photosynthetic pathways in immobilised microalgae due to the lack of oxygen. In contrast to the many other reports in the literature on batch photobioreactors producing hydrogen from suspension culture of microalgae, we present the first report where this is done in a continuous manner from a fabric-immobilised microalgae culture. The reported artificial leaf device maximises the sunlight energy utilisation per gram of algae and can be upscaled cheaply and easily to cover large areas. We compared the production of hydrogen from both immobilised and suspended cultures of C. reinhardtii microalgae under sulphur, phosphorus and oxygen deprived conditions. The viability and potential of this approach is clearly demonstrated. Even though this is a first prototype, the hydrogen yield of our artificial leaf device is twenty times higher per gram of algae than in previously the reported batch reactors. Such leaf-like devices could potentially be made from flexible plastic sheets and installed on roofs and other sun-exposed surfaces that are inaccessible by photovoltaic cells. The ability to continuously produce inexpensive hydrogen by positioning inexpensive sheets onto any surface could have an enormous importance in the field of biofuels. The proposed new concept can provide a cleaner and very inexpensive way of bio-hydrogen generation by flexible sheet-like devices.