- Through artificial photosynthesis, scientists have converted CO2 into hydrocarbon fuels.
- Gold nanoparticles have been used as a catalyst.
- The other similar findings on artificial photosynthesis.
The efficiency of solar panels mainly depends on the intensity of sunlight. In cloudy day or in winter solar panels generates less electricity than in normal sunny day. Also, the demand for electricity increases at night and for that solar energy needs to be stored in the batteries. which adds additional cost to its setup as well as a major drawback in its popularity.
Unlike thermal power plants, hydropower plants, or nuclear plants we can not fully rely on solar energy. You might be aware that Tesla has made 100 MW (world’s biggest) set of batteries to store solar and wind energy in Australia. but…
A group of Chemists at the University of Illinois have successfully made hydrocarbon fuels using water, carbon dioxide, and visible light through artificial photosynthesis. By converting carbon dioxide into more complex molecules like propane. The technology has solved one more problem of global warming as it is using excess CO2 to store solar energy in the form of chemical bonds. This will ensure the use of solar energy at peak times even if the sun is not shining.
Plants use sunlight to drive chemical reactions between water and CO2 to create and store solar energy in the form of energy-dense glucose. In the new study, the researchers developed an artificial process that uses the same green light portion of the visible light spectrum used by plants during natural photosynthesis to convert CO2 and water into fuel, in conjunction with electron-rich gold nanoparticles that serve as a catalyst. journal Nature Communications.
A metal catalyst is used to absorb green light and transfer electrons and protons needed for chemical reactions between CO2 and water — filling the role of the pigment chlorophyll in natural photosynthesis.
Gold nanoparticles surfaces interact favorably with the CO2 molecules, and are efficient at absorbing light and do not break down or degrade like other metals that can tarnish easily. Hence it is used as catalyst.
The question again rises as if the generated hydrocarbon fuel is burned in conventional way to produce energy it will create more CO2 and then there is no meaning of harvesting solar energy. But according to the researchers there are other, more unconventional potential uses from the hydrocarbons created from this process. They could be used to power fuel cells for producing electrical current and voltage.
There are labs across the world trying to figure out how the hydrocarbon-to-electricity conversion can be conducted efficiently.
Though the research seems to be quite promising but this artificial photosynthesis could not be compared with the natural one. As it is nowhere near as efficient as it is in plants.
“We need to learn how to tune the catalyst to increase the efficiency of the chemical reactions,” he said. “Then we can start the hard work of determining how to go about scaling up the process. And, like any unconventional energy technology, there will be many economic feasibility questions to be answered, as well.”
You can read complete paper in the Journal nature communications.
Artificial photosynthesis is a man made replica of the natural process of photosynthesis. The goal is to generate carbohydrate fuel from sun light by using water and carbon dioxide. The term artificial photosynthesis is commonly used to refer to any scheme for capturing and storing the energy from sunlight in the chemical bonds of a fuel (a solar fuel). Photocatalytic water splitting converts water into hydrogen and oxygen and is a major research topic of artificial photosynthesis. Light-driven carbon dioxide reduction is another process studied that replicates natural carbon fixation.
You should read the article on artificial photosynthesis on Business wire Toshiba Develops World’s Highest Efficiency Artificial Photosynthesis Technology for Generation of Fuel and Feedstock from Carbon Dioxide