Hydrogen production by microorganisms

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Hydrogen production through biophotolysis or photofermentation is usually a two stage process. In the first stage CO2 is utilized for biomass production which is followed by hydrogen production in the second stage in anaerobic/sulfur-deprived conditions. In addition, one-stage photobiological hydrogen production process can be achieved using selected cyanobacterial strains.

The major challenges confronting the large scale production of biomass/hydrogen are limited not only on the performance of the photobioreactors in which light penetration in dense cultures is a major bottleneck but also on the characteristics of the organisms. Other dependable factors include area/volume (A/V) ratio, mode of agitation, temperature and gas exchange. Photobioreactors of different geometries are reported for biohydrogen production: Tubular, Flat plate, Fermentor type etc. Every reactor has its own advantages and disadvantages. Airlift, helical tubular and flat plate reactors are found most suitable with respect to biomass production. These bioreactors may be employed for hydrogen production with necessary modifications to overcome the existing bottlenecks like gas hold up, oxygen toxicity and poor agitation.

This review article attempts to focus on existing photobioreactors with respect to biomass generation and hydrogen production and the steps taken to improve its performance through engineering innovation that definitely help in the future design and construction of photobioreactors.

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Chitralekha Nag Dasgupta, J. Jose Gilbert, Peter Lindblad, Thorsten Heidorn, Stig A. Borgvang, Kari Skjanes, Debabrata Das (2010) Recent trends on the development of photobiological processes and photobioreactors for the improvement of hydrogen production,