In the thick of US government’s budget cuts for energy innovation efforts, research on artificial photosynthesis that aims to utilize sunlight in generating liquid fuels continues on progressing and receiving government funding through innovation hub investment strategy.
Innovation hubs are multidisciplinary research centers that concentrate on providing solutions to persisting challenges by combining scientific research with applied technology.
One of the five innovation hubs, Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis Innovation Hub, has claimed to have made significant progress in two years in its objective of fabricating devices that could convert sunlight and water into hydrogen and oxygen, which in turn could be utilized to generate electricity. This process is called artificial photosynthesis.
Ultimately, the said innovation hub is geared towards combining hydrogen with carbon from carbon dioxide to generate liquid fuels. To do so, it is strategically comprised of researchers (from more than 20 research centers) specializing in various disciplines such as catalysis, optics, and membrane technology that will share a total of $122 million worth of funding to be received for five years.
Searching for photocatalysts and electrocatalysts is currently executed via an inkjet printing process the researchers have developed that makes bunches of slightly different catalysts, from which one could be the material they are looking for.
Hub director Nate Lewis says, “It will dramatically accelerate the rate of electrocatalyst and photocatalyst discovery from a few candidates a year to a few every few milliseconds, producing thousands to millions per day.”
Using advanced 3D printers, the researchers have also fabricated two prototypes of devices that could hold the two main components, light-absorbing materials and catalysts. The device will then be feeding the components with water, and finally, will be separating and collecting hydrogen produced from them.
The funding for the hub though is not guaranteed. Maybe the Congress will give them the chance to complete the project they have started and prove them the value of their end-product.