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Scientists create "artificial photosynthesis" to produce clean energy



At the moment there is a race in the scientific world. Several teams around the world are competing to be the first to produce a solid, stable form of artificial photosynthesis that works just like the plant.

Solar panels are fine and all (they are certainly much better than they were a few decades ago), but this form of collection and storage of solar energy is inherently flawed. Despite their growing popularity, solar panels are far from being as efficient as living plants that turn sunlight into electricity. For one thing, solar panels are completely useless in low-light situations, and it's difficult to find ways to store energy from solar cells without too much current leaking over time.

Teams such as those at Boston College Professor Dunwei Wang are in the first place to find artificial photosynthesis that corresponds to the organic alternative. Wang's team now believes that they have cracked the formula, thanks to a special catalyst that, theoretically at least, should give much more stability to their version of photosynthesis.

Artificial photosynthesis, like real things, is based on more than just collecting sunlight. Water and carbon dioxide are used together with solar energy to produce fuel that can be stored for device operation or later use, depending on the circumstances.

While most photosynthesis attempts use a catalyst in some form, "individual atomic structures are traditionally unable to withstand the process they undergo." Wang's team used a special two-atom iridium catalyst that was used in the process Essentially capable of carrying more stress without wearing off.

The result should be a more robust, more durable catalyst, and thus a more efficient artificial photosynthesis process.

  Opening quote

"Our research is focused with the technology for direct solar energy storage. It addresses the critical challenge that solar energy is intermittent. This is done through direct solar energy generation and storage of energy in chemical bonds, much like photosynthesis is done, but with higher efficiencies and lower costs.

  Final Quote

It seems that this new potential source of fuel makes it possible to have a cheaper artificial photosynthesis process, which is bad news for existing solar farms, but it is fantastic news for the growing energy crisis of our planet and for the environment itself.

The beauty of artificial photosynthesis over other forms of solar energy is that the process of energy production actually consumes carbon dioxide – given the amount of greenhouse gases that Hopefully, we will be able to at least slow down the negative impact we have on the environment.

Such research should be kept in mind if anybody considers the global damage caused by our own self-destructive love caused by fossil fuels will be teams of scientists looking for alternative energy sources. If we are lucky, that could save the world.


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