Indian Journal of Microbiology

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 48–59 | Cite as

Microbiological and engineering aspects of biohydrogen production

  • Patrick C. Hallenbeck
  • Dipankar Ghosh
  • Monika T. Skonieczny
  • Viviane Yargeau
Review Article


Dramatically rising oil prices and increasing awareness of the dire environmental consequences of fossil fuel use, including startling effects of climate change, are refocusing attention worldwide on the search for alternative fuels. Hydrogen is poised to become an important future energy carrier. Renewable hydrogen production is pivotal in making it a truly sustainable replacement for fossil fuels, and for realizing its full potential in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One attractive option is to produce hydrogen through microbial fermentation. This process would use readily available wastes as well as presently unutilized bioresources, including enormous supplies of agricultural and forestry wastes. These potential energy sources are currently not well exploited, and in addition, pose environmental problems. However, fuels are relatively low value products, placing severe constraints on any production process. Therefore, means must be sought to maximize yields and rates of hydrogen production while at the same time minimizing energy and capital inputs to the bioprocess. Here we review the various attributes of the characterized hydrogen producing bacteria as well as the preparation and properties of mixed microflora that have been shown to convert various substrates to hydrogen. Factors affecting yields and rates are highlighted and some avenues for increasing these parameters are explored. On the engineering side, we review the potential waste pre-treatment technologies and discuss the relevant bioprocess parameters, possible reactor configurations, including emerging technologies, and how engineering design-directed research might provide insight into the exploitation of the significant energy potential of biomass resources.


Biofuels Biohydrogen Fermentation Bioreactors Waste treatment 


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Copyright information

© Association of Microbiologists of India 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick C. Hallenbeck
    • 1
  • Dipankar Ghosh
    • 1
  • Monika T. Skonieczny
    • 2
  • Viviane Yargeau
    • 2
  1. 1.Département de microbiologie et immunologieUniversité de MontréalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringMcGill UniversityQuebecCanada

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