What Is Artificial Photosynthesis?
by Contributing Writer
Photosynthesis is the process through which plants capture energy from the sun and convert it into chemical energy for cells to use. Scientists have been looking for ways to mimic this process, turning solar energy into viable liquid fuels, according to Science Daily.
The goal of scientists in creating artificial photosynthesis is to use solar radiation as a free energy source to change water into oxygen and carbohydrates. Some researchers have looked at replacing the role played by chloroplasts in plants with a semiconductor.
When photosynthesis occurs in plants, it takes place in the chloroplasts, using chlorophyll to absorb light and convert it to glucose (sugars). The chemical formula for photosynthesis is 6CO2 + 6H2O (+ light energy) ' C6H12O6 + 6O2.
U.S. Department of Energy
According to an article in the Science Daily, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered that microscopic cobalt oxide crystals can mimic the photosynthetic reaction of splitting water molecules. This is an important first step in attaining artificial photosynthesis.
The splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen ions provides the electrons that are needed to convert carbon dioxide into a usable fuel.
Scientists hope to be able to tap into the power of hydrogen as a fuel source that would be carbon-neutral and not increase the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The goal is to harvest the energy of the sun just as plants have done for millions of years.