Biological hydrogen production using genetically engineered microorganisms

December 1st, 2021

R&D Focus Areas:
Biological hydrogen production

Lead Organisation:
Macquarie University

BOC Australia
Bioplatforms Australia


Start date:
August 2018

Completion date:
April 2023

Key contacts:
Lead Investigators: Professor Robert Willows and Associate Professor Louise Brown.

ARENA (Advancing Renewables Program: Hydrogen R&D)
Project total cost: AUD $2.82 million

Total project funding:
ARENA cash: AUD$1.14 million
Project partners cash: AUD$776,000
In-kind contribution: (project partners): AUD$902,000

Project summary description:
This project aims to use modern synthetic biology methods to produce a strain of bacteria that produces hydrogen from renewable carbohydrate feedstock such as glucose and sucrose. Through an iterative process of engineering, cells are optimised for maximum rate and yield of hydrogen production suitable for commercial scale hydrogen production. This is a sustainable system of hydrogen production with no net impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Key results:

  • Successfully optimised a strain of bacteria to utilise simple sugars derived from biomass to produce hydrogen
  • Achieved high rates (~10 fold higher than target production rate) and high yields of hydrogen production from glucose (>20%)
  • Developed methods for the accurate measurement and control of hydrogen production from the engineered strain of bacteria
  • Demonstrated the process and application by powering a small device directly from a small fuel cell powered by the hydrogen (with no storage)
  • The bioengineered hydrogen producing strain provides an alternative for low carbon hydrogen production that does not rely on significant electricity infrastructure or storage requirements. The technology to produce hydrogen can be developed in a modular fashion at the site of availability of the waste biomass feedstocks.

Related publications and key links:
Biological Hydrogen Production End of Activity Report –

Biological Hydrogen Production Mid-Term Activity Report – Biological Hydrogen Production Mid-Term Activity – Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

PCT – “Recombinant microorganisms and process”

Higher degree studies supported:
Three PhD students and four Masters of Research students at Macquarie University have been supported by this project.


Reviewed: September 2023