Pond scum discovery ranked among year's top science stories




24 Jan 2001 | Pond scum discovery ranked among year's top science stories Green algae, sometime known derisively as "pond scum," may rank low on the food and status chain, but it was right at the top when Popular Science editors set out to name the most important science stories of 2000.

In its current issue, the science magazine names work by Berkeley Professor Tasios Melis and colleagues - on the hydrogen-generating potential of the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii - among the 'top 10' science stories of the year.

What's got the editors so excited? "When fossil fuels run out, what's next?" the magazine writes. "Many scientists predict future cars and houses will be powered by fuel cells burning hydrogen. One possible source of the gas: green algae living in ponds and streams.

"Normally, green algae produce only trace amounts of hydrogen," says Popular Science. "But scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have discovered a way to make algae produce hydrogen from water in bulk."

If and when that happens, a one-acre pond of algae could produce enough hydrogen in one day to run Ford's newest fuel-cell car for more than 900 miles - making pond scum one of the world's best renewable, environmentally friendly sources of energy.

Melis is a biologist in the College of Natural Resources. Visit features/top_10 /fuel.html for the Popular Science article. See berkeleyan/2000/02/16/scum.html for a Berkeleyan story on the research.


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