Algae can be converted into a hydrogen source through the method of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a plants ability to convert solar energy and turn it into something else. A scientist by the name of Barry Bruce, who is a professor at UT Knoxville, has discovered when using photosynthesis with a certain type of algae and a catalyst method with platinum, that hydrogen was produced when that algae was exposed to light.
Barry Bruce is head of a team of researchers that work on these findings from UT Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They are researching this to create a solution for a natural fuel for the possibility of even using it in vehicles.
Barry Bruce believes that by using direct power from the algae to create a cleaner fuel by bypassing two other methods will be a huge step forward. One method is waiting for the plant to become a fossil fuel, which of course would require time to wait for the plant to grow and die first. A process that could take quite a bit of time before it is fossilized to use. The other method is biofuel which requires energy to grow, harvest and the energy required to convert it to biofuel.
Other scientists have tried to use the sun this way before, but could not figure out how to heat it to the temperatures required to produce the hydrogen. The system needs to be very large to capture the suns power. Blue green algae that is thermophilic can withstand a higher temperature as Barry Bruce has discovered, the reaction they were looking for was successful at temperatures resembling the desert at 55 degrees C or 131 degrees Fahrenheit.
Barry Bruce is trying to find a way to replace gasoline, which he feels cannot be done with sugared methods of biofuel. He feels he might have found a way to make more fuel using less energy. Barry Bruce and his team are trying to find a method to produce hydrogen from sources that are non-hydrocarbon. Hydrogen is a cleaner source of fuel over petroleum.
It does sound like Bruce is on to something worthwhile, and a change that could affect the industry in some powerful and moving ways. A vehicle or other objects needing fuel to run and be powered by algae converted into hydrogen for a new generation of fuel.
You can view Barry Bruce and his findings on Nature Nanotechnology.