Anastasios Melis is an American biologist at the University of California, Berkeley who is researching the possibility of creating hydrogen from algae. He is currently Professor of Plant & Microbial Biology in the institution and Editor-in-Chief of the Planta journal.
Hydrogen power is considered one of the key ways of producing electricity without continuing to use up fossil fuels. The added bonus of using algae in this way is that they could consume carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In 1998 Professor Anastasios Melis discovered, after following Hans Gaffron's work, that the deprivation of sulfur will cause Chlamydomonas reinhardtii algae to switch from producing oxygen to producing hydrogen. The enzyme, hydrogenase, he found was responsible for the reaction, which is normally a temporary emergency survival mechanism used in an oxygen-deprived environment. The enzyme stops functioning when oxygen is produced, however the deprivation of sulphur ensures continuous hydrogen production.
Scientists since the 1940s have been trying to get the algae to produce hydrogen in significant quantities; he told media his breakthrough was like "striking oil". He currently leads and international effort to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis by 300% for increased hydrogen production. However, he believes that the only way for cost-competitiveness is to genetically modify the organisms to increase output.
In 2001 he co-founded a company, Melis Energy, in order to exploit his discovery, hoping to get it on the market by 2005. In the autumn of 2001, the company built a bio-reactor containing 500 litres of water and algae that produced up to 1 litre of hydrogen per hour. A siphoning system extracted the hydrogen, which is stored in its gaseous state. The company attempted to refine the process and improve its reliability, while also searching for investors so that it can increase production volume.It has since been dissolved.
Anastasios Melis has issued three patents for his work on microbial hydrogen production: his 2006 patent US 6,989,252 covers using hydrogenase; modulation of sulfate permease is covered by US 7,176,005 and improved photosynthesis efficiency in 2010 with US 7,745,696.Election to the rank of Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science - 2011
Research Achievement Award - US Department of Energy, Hydrogen Program - 2004
University Research Award - DaimlerChrysler Corporation - 2003
Distinguished Teaching Award - College of Natural Resources - 1994