It will produce fuels and recycle atmospheric CO2
For years, scientists have been trying to emulate the complex chemical reactions of the natural process of photosynthesis utilised in plants and algae. Plants have been evolving these natural processes for millions of years allowing them to make use of solar energy to obtain carbohydrates and oxygen from water and CO2. Successful artificial reproduction of photosynthesis would mean a true revolution in the energy field; as we would be able to obtain high-quality fuels that would be easily stored from a ubiquitous, free, endless and CO2 neutral source. From a technological point of view, prestigious research centres, universities and governments from all around the world are committed to this multidisciplinary objective.
The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) in USA is made up of researchers from CalTech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The team led by Doctor John Gregoire works in the development of strategies to allow quick detection of photo-absorbent materials. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology also works in this field. There, professor Yogesh Surendranath foresees a future where the cycle of fuels would be completely clean and CO2 neutral. To achieve that future, they work in promising techniques that will allow them to adjust the selectivity of catalysts to improve the efficiency of the cycle that turns CO2 into fuel.
On our side of the Atlantic, in Europe, other research teams are trying to make progress in their aim to synthesize fuels from light. An example is the A-LEAF project where researchers from different countries, Spain among them, are working in the identification of characteristics of the matter that would allow the design of new catalyst to achieve a more efficient CO2 reduction.
All of them work in the development of an efficient, cheap, safe and clean technology that would be able to produce fuels just from sunlight, water and CO2. Simple ingredients for an ambitious aim.