by David Catchpoole
Long before the current emphasis on ‘green energy’, scientists have been on a quest to mimic the way that plants convert sunlight into fuel. In leaves, photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) into oxygen and carbohydrates such as glucose. The energy transfer efficiency rate of approximately 97% is the envy of engineers striving to produce ‘artificial photosynthesis’ solar energy harvesters.
(Note that artificial photosynthesis differs from photovoltaics, the method used in conventional solar panels, which generates an electrical current that can’t be easily stored but must be loaded onto the electrical grid.)
The benefits of such plant-mimicking energy harvesters are very clear to researchers: “The production of hydrogen using nothing but water and sunlight offers the possibility of an abundant, renewable, green source of energy for the future,” enthused Tom Mallouk, a Pennsylvania State University professor of chemistry and physics.1….
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