Could These ‘Plants’ Fuel the Future?

Scientists working in the field of synthetic photosynthesis have recently developed an artificial “leaf” the can produce natural gas from carbon dioxide. This marks a major step toward producing renewable fuels.

Through a combination of semiconducting nanowires and bacteria, the researchers were able to design an artificial plant that can make natural gases using only sunlight—making the likelihood of a cleaner future more tangible.

From Organic to Synthetic

The roots of this development stem for the natural process of photosynthesis. Instead of the natural byproduct of organic photosynthesis (sugar), these scientists have produced methane.

“We’re good at generating electrons from light efficiently, but chemical synthesis always limited our systems in the past,” said Peidong Yang, head researcher in the study. “One purpose of this experiment was to show we could integrate bacterial catalysts with semiconductor technology. This lets us understand and optimize a truly synthetic photosynthesis system.”

The new development does not mimic nature directly, instead it functions based off nature’s guidelines for a better catalyst.

ICYMI: Allen J. Bard, “father of modern electrochemistry” and pioneer in artificial photosynthesis.

A Renewable Future

The fuels developed from this synthetic photosynthesis are easily applicable to the current energy infrastructure and allow the population to take at least a small step toward a more renewable energy landscape.

“Burning fossil fuels is putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere much faster than natural photosynthesis can take it out. A system that pulls every carbon that we burn out of the air and converts it into fuel is truly carbon neutral,” added Thomas Moore, bioenergy and photosynthesis expert.

[Image: Gizmag]

PS: Interested in synthetic photosynthesis? Get a first look at our upcoming Electrochemical Energy Summit, where the Join Center for Artificial Photosynthesis will talk about the progress and prospects of artificial photosynthesis.


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