Many studies have been made to develop artificial photosynthesis with the ultimate aim of producing ‘solar fuel’, a fuel that can be made purely out of water, sunlight and the abundant carbon dioxide available in our ever depleting environment. It has been a challenge for many research groups across the world to mimic the natural phenomenon.
But, a team of researchers from the University of California (UC), who also collaborated with the U.S Department of Energy for this project, succeeded in simulating natural photosynthesis.
They have developed an artificial photosynthesis system, which is mainly made up of semiconductor nanowires and bacteria. In nature, photosynthesis is a phenomenon, in which plants intake solar energy, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water to produce oxygen and carbohydrates. In artificial photosynthesis, carbon dioxide and water are used to synthesize acetate, an ingredient made commonly by biosynthesis.
Chris Chang, a scientist, detailed about their invention saying “nanowires use solar energy after which, electrons are delivered to bacteria. Using the bacteria, CO2 reacts with water molecules that can be fine-tuned to synthesize many different types of chemical products”, microcapobserver reports.
Peidong Yang, the chemist at the Material Sciences Division at The University of California-Berkeley lab, who also authored the study, said “We believe our system is a revolutionary leap forward in the field of artificial photosynthesis,”. He continues, “Our system has the potential to fundamentally change the chemical and oil industry in that we can produce chemicals and fuels in a totally renewable way, rather than extracting them from deep below the ground.”
Scientists say artificial photosynthesis can help the environment in many ways. The increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to the usage of fossil fuels, holds the infrared rays within the atmosphere and causes the greenhouse effect and thus the global warming. But artificial photosynthesis captures the emitted carbon dioxide before it gets absorbed by the atmosphere. The captured CO2 can be converted into various chemical products like liquid fuels, pharmaceutical drugs, biodegradable plastics, etc. Thus, it can reduce global warming significantly. Hope this simulation comes to commercial practice soon.