According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), formed in 2002, currently has 42 initiatives underway, involving 59 principal investigators at 10 institutions around the globe. One of the projects is being led by Stanford professors Fritz Prinz and Arthur Grossman, who seek to find a way to produce electricity by modifying the process of photosynthesis.

The scientists want to be able to use electrodes to capture the electrical energy that plants create from light energy as they build carbon components; this requires inserting a minuscule probe as thin as a spider web strand into a single cell, using optical and atomic force microscopes priced at approximately $500,000. Many such cells would be necessary to power a building or eventually an entire town.

Another GCEP project with Arthur Spormann, a Stanford civil and environmental engineering professor, involves trying to produce hydrogen from cyanobacteria. Spormann and postdoctoral student Jacky Ng are seeking to incorporate a “hydrogenase gene” into the bacteria to form a protein enabling the creation of hydrogen gas.

Spormann said that the process, if successful, would be the cleanest effort that can be achieved apart from conserving energy. But the scientists are concerned whether hydrogen will be efficient enough to be widely used and that, at room temperature, hydrogen needs to be compressed into strong containers at high pressure, which consumes about one-third of the hydrogen’s energy.

In any case, Spormann and other Stanford researchers agree that multiple technologies will be required to supplant fossil fuels. EC

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