Scientists get closer to artificial photosynthesis for renewable energy

Scientists at Berkeley Lab are getting close to a long-held goal
of using artificial photosynthesis to generate renewable energy
from the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. If produced in large
enough quantities, the energy created from artificial
photosynthesis could
be a huge step to slowing climate change.

Photosynthesis is the chemical reaction by which algae and green
plants turn carbon dioxide into
cellular fuel. Scientists at Berkeley have designed square solar
fuel tiles containing billions of nanoscale tubes between two
pieces of thin, flexible silicate. These squares will comprise the
new artificial photosynthesis system.

Related: New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at
creating hydrogen fuel

The Berkeley scientists recently published a paper in Advanced
Functional Materials explaining how their design “allows for the
rapid flow of protons from the interior space of the tube, where
they are generated from splitting water molecules, to the outside,
where they combine with CO2 and electrons to form the fuel.” So
far, the scientists have managed to produce carbon monoxide as the
fuel but are trying for methanol.

“There are two challenges that have not yet been met,” said
senior scientist Heinz Frei in a
press release from Berkeley Lab
. “One of them is scalability.
If we want to keep fossil fuels in the
ground, we need to be able to make energy in terawatts — an
enormous amount of fuel. And, you need to make a liquid hydrocarbon
fuel so that we can actually use it with the trillions of
dollars’ worth of existing infrastructure and technology.”

Once the scientists are satisfied with their model, they should
be able to quickly build a solar fuel farm out of the
tiles, which measure a few inches across. “We, as basic
scientists, need to deliver a tile that works, with all questions
about its performance settled,” Frei said. “And engineers in
industry know how to connect these tiles. When we’ve figured out
square inches, they’ll be able to make square miles.”

+ Berkeley Lab

Images via
Andreas Senftleben

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
Scientists get closer to artificial photosynthesis for renewable energy