Amid all the recent hubbub surrounding advances made in ethanol-based renewable energy, it is sometimes easy to discount the staying power of photovoltaics as a source of sustainable energy. Despite the merits of biofuel technology, the reality is that current photovoltaic panels are capable of capturing substantially more energy per square meter than are biomass crops such as corn and sugarcane, which rely on photosynthesis to capture and store solar energy, that are being pushed for use as feedstock for ethanol. That is not to say that we should then dismiss the use of biofuel as a viable source of renewable energy. As Alfred Spormann, a professor of microbiology at Stanford University, elaborates in the video, genetic engineering could be used to improve the energy conversion process in plants, thus improving storage capacity and making biomass feedstocks a more cost-efficient solution to our energy woes.
Spormann's research centers around finding innovative ways to engineer cyanobacteria, specifically Synechocystis and Anabena, to produce molecular hydrogen. Because it combusts to water without the side formation of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, hydrogen provides a promising platform to develop a long-term sustainable and environmentally friendly renewable technology. Current efforts are focused on understanding the biochemical and genetic mechanisms of oxygenic photosynthesis in the cyanobacteria.
::Biofuel feedstock: How efficiently can plants capture solar energy?, ::The Spormann Laboratory: Research
See also: ::The Dangers of Biofuel, ::Biofuel That Grows Like A Magic Mushroom, ::Light + Water = Renewable Energy