Artificial photosynthesis is the theory that we can create energy and other things from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. Of course, plants already do this. However, if technology like this existed then it would be something of a success for energy researchers, particularly those who are trying to focus on Green energy.
This may seem like a ‘pipe dream’, but some labs have already demonstrated that this theory may have some potential. MIT’s Nocera Lab was able to create an artificial leaf from just a few materials. However, the problem that researchers face at the moment is a matter of efficiency. It just isn’t worth going through this process.
Panasonic, the large consumer electronics company looks to challenge this notion though. They have recently announced that they are going to be investing a substantial amount of cash in a scheme which aims to turn carbon dioxide and sunlight into chemicals.
The technology that they are going to be focusing on is a ‘two-step’ approach. This involves a nitride semiconductor which converts sunlight into electrons. This then splits the water down into hydrogen and oxygen. A second reaction will then takes place which converts the hydrogen and carbon dioxide into formic acid using a metallic catalyst. This acid is one of the most widely-used chemicals in textile production and food preservation.
However, Panasonic are going to have a tough time increasing the efficiency of this technology. At the moment it stands at around 0.2% efficient, not enough for it to be commercially viable. However, Panasonic are going to give this a good go, remember, all technology needs to start somewhere.