Eyes on Environment: The Search for Artificial Photosynthesis
● As efficient as Natural Selection?
"Natural selection is not a master engineer, but a tinkerer. It doesn't produce the absolute perfection achievable by a designer starting from scratch, but merely the best it can do with what it has to work with."
- Jerry CoyneWhat can we learn from Nature's expertise in refinement? What if we developed technologies that mimicked the best machinery developed from eons of evolution? Photosynthesis, the ubiquitous process that converts solar energy to usable chemical fuel that serves as the foundation for all life on Earth, is a prime example. As fossil fuels dwindle, scientists hope to replicate plant photosynthesis using human-made materials to store light as chemical energy in hydrogen, which has three times the energy density of gasoline. Finding a cheap method to do this could provide clean hydrogen fuel as the basis for a future, fossil-fuel-free economy. So far, attempts have succeeded in reproducing the basic process but have had difficulties keeping devices stable for long periods of time. Now, a recent study may have found a solution, bringing artificial photosynthesis closer to a practical reality.
The technique requires the use of a silicon semiconductor coated with Nickel-Oxide as a protective layer. Such artificial water-splitting devices, built with inorganic crystals and acids, electrical wires winding away like tentacles, may offer no resemblance to the flexible green organics of plant photosynthesis. But the chemistry at the core is the same, and we are just now beginning to match the elegance of Nature's million-year-old machinery.
● Via +Jonathan Trinastic
's Goodnight Earth
● Citation: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/12/3612
● Image credit: Weft
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