Jan 19, 2019 | Updated: 08:24 AM EST

Latest Update on 'Artificial Photosynthesis' Research to Boost Solar Fuel Production

May 25, 2017 05:22 PM EDT


Scientists have tried to mimic the photosynthesis process to harvest solar energy for years more efficiently by creating the artificial leaf. The latest research showed a one step forward in the progress of creating the artificial photosynthesis.

The research from the Florida Institute of Technology is the latest effort to mimic the photosynthesis process and creating an artificial photosynthesis. A professor and head of the Chemistry Department at the Florida Tech, Michael Freund, and the post-doctoral researcher, Sakineh Chabi focused their research on developing the specific membrane to become the factory of artificial photosynthesis process, in other words, an "artificial leaf."

In their research, Professor Freund and Chabi tried to include the electronic properties that can be integrated with light absorbers and catalysts in the membrane. This is not an easy process because the membrane should be able to optimize the charge transport and electrochemical potential gradients. Their research, which has been published in Energy & Environmental Science, is able to differentiate the types of a membrane for artificial photosynthesis.

In order to make the artificial photosynthesis, a man-made leaf must be able to split water molecules with a catalyst, activated by the sun. The result of the process is a hydrogen gas or liquid hydrocarbon as the solar fuel. This type of fuel is extremely efficient, carbon neutral and its usage only leaves water behind, making it a very environmental-friendly fuel.

Scientists have been attempting to create artificial photosynthesis in order to convert sunlight into energy. Six years ago, MIT professor Daniel Nocera was able to create an artificial leaf, to convert the sunlight directly into the chemical energy. In his experiment, Professor Nocera used the silicon solar cells with different catalytic material bonded to both of its sides.

When the solar cells were put into a container of water and exposed to sunlight, the artificial photosynthesis occurred as it generated the two stream of bubbles, oxygen, and hydrogen. Watch the interview of BBC's Adam Shaw with Professor Nocera below:

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