Purdue Promises Sustainable Energy from Artificial Photosynthesis

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Purdue Promises Sustainable Energy from Artificial Photosynthesis Plants have a secret weapon unique to them, photosynthesis. By harnessing a natural reaction they evolved, plants are able to use a chemical they produce called chlorophyll to harness energy from the sun. This process is invaluable to the ecosystem everywhere, so scientists are trying to mimic the reaction in a lab. Scientists at Purdue University hope to find a new source of sustainable, clean energy. They want to use a reaction similar to photosynthesis to turn sunlight into useable fuel. Clean energy from solar panels and wind turbines already exists and is becoming mainstream as it is more readily available. The option of artificial photosynthesis is even more appealing than wind and solar energy because it would actually pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is the way photosynthesis naturally takes place. In addition to this, solar panels and wind turbines often have a very large carbon footprint as they are manufactured and set up before they even begin producing energy. Photosynthesis is a complicated and elusive reaction, while it is much more efficient than wind and solar energy. There are fundamental physical limitations that inhibit solar panels from absorbing as much energy as photosynthesis is able to. The group at Purdue University is mimicking photosynthesis in a lab by building a synthetic leaf analog that collects light and splits water molecules to collect hydrogen. Hydrogen is an increasingly popular fuel that can be used by itself or combined with other fuels like natural gas in fuel cells powering everything from electronic devices to laboratories. The findings were recently published in the journal Chem Catalysis: Cell Press. Scientists have been working on artificial photosynthesis for over half a century. It has been in the news frequently recently because many major advancements have been made. Scientists expect the technology to become commercially available within the next ten to fifteen years.

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