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Artificial Photosynthesis Soon Coming to a Plant Near You?

Iridium catalyst  © Yale Entrepreneurial Institute
Iridium catalyst
© Yale Entrepreneurial Institute

I’m not sure if there are a lot of fans of artificial plants, or of astroturf, but researchers from Yale are making artificial photosynthesis a reality.

As reported in Nature Communications, PhD student Staff Sheehan and his team have come up with an iridium catalyst for water oxidation that can do the trick.

The molecular iridium catalyst was prepared by coating on a glass slide.  It oxidizes ​ water for several hours at 250 mV without degrading.  Its stability is said to be comparable to “state-of-the-art bulk metal oxide catalysts.”

In other words, a glass covered with the iridium nano particles Sheehan and his team developed works just as well as expensive all metal electrodes and is as robust as well, at way lower costs.  In developing such catalysts, the researchers have overcome a bottleneck that makes making renewable fuel someday a reality.

That someday may be quite far off, but in the near future, these catalysts can be used to treat chemical wastes, as well as work in fuel cells.  Their stability in strong acids is a characteristic that makes them appropriate for metal refining.

I guess that the future is brighter thanks to these new catalysts that will someday allow us to directly make fuel from the sun.

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