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Researchers have been trying to produce hydrogen photosynthetically for quite some time now, as this could pave the way toward a more sustainable energy infrastructure. Some of them have succeeded by fusing different hydrogenases (H2ase) to photosystem I (PSI) in vitro outside of living cells. Hydrogenases are enzymes that catalyze the reduction of protons to hydrogen, while photosystem I is an integral membrane protein complex, which typically captures the energy of sunlight in the process of photosynthesis.

Past studies introduced a number of techniques to fuse hydrogenases to photosystem I, but all of these have so far only proved effective in vitro (i.e., in laboratory settings and outside of living cells). In vitro systems have an intrinsically short lifespan, as the living cell that is capable of self-repair, maintenance and replication is missing. To be most effective, therefore, techniques for the production of solar hydrogen should also work well in vivo (i.e., inside living cells).

Researchers at University Kiel in Germany have recently devised a method to photosynthetically produce hydrogen that entails fusing and photosystem I in vivo. Their paper, published in Nature Energy, could open up new possibilities for the sustainable production of hydrogen on a large scale.

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Category: Science