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Hydrogen production by nitrogen-starved cultures of Anabaena cylindrica.

  • J C Weissman
  • J R Benemann
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1977


Nitrogen-starved cultures of the alga Anabaena cylindrica 629 produced hydrogen and oxygen continuously for 7 to 19 days. Hydrogen production attained a maximum level after 1 to 2 days of starvation and was followed by a slow decline. The maximum rates were 30 ml of H2 evolved per liter of culture per h or 32 mul of H2 per mg of dry weight per h. In 5 to 7 days the rate of H2 evolution by the more productive cultures fell to one-half its maximum value. The addition of 10(-4) to 5 X 10(-4) M ammonium increased the rate of oxygen evolution and the total hydrogen production of the cultures. H2-O2 ratios were 4:1 under conditions of complete nitrogen starvation and about 1.7:1 after the addition of ammonium. Thus, oxygen evolution was affected by the extent of the nitrogen starvation. Thermodynamic efficiencies of converting incident light energy to free energy of hydrogen via algal photosynthesis were 0.4%. Possible factors limiting hydrogen production were decline of reductant supply and filament breakage. Hydrogen production by filamentous, heterocystous blue-green algae could be used for development of a biophotolysis system.

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