Artificial Photosynthesis may be key to world's energy problems

Posted Apr 2, 2007 by Thespian

Chicago, Illinois. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory are trying to design catalysts inspired by photosynthesis.
photo courtesy of morguefile
photo courtesy of morguefile
This is an idea I had way back in high school science class when I first learned about photosynthesis and about how inefficient electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen was.
I always thought that if we could figure out a way to reproduce what plants do naturally, we'd have a much better energy source. I'm thrilled to hear that Brookhaven National Laboratory is actively researching the topic.
Quick Science primer:
All the energy on earth, be it chemical energy in the food we eat or the fuel we burn, comes ultimately from the nuclear fusion in the sun. The chemical bonds we break release stored energy. Hydrogen isn't really a fuel, so much as it is a battery to store energy. Breaking hydrogen off of water takes energy, which can be retrieved when they hydrogen burns as a "fuel." The trick is to produce the hydrogen without burning limited fossil fuels to do it. That's why this article photosynthesis is exciting. It would allow us to split off hydrogen from water using "free" solar energy the way plants do.