Scientists have been able to accomplish another breakthrough by developing a partially artificial photosynthesis system. This system could be used for the production of hydrogen fuel from water by leveraging sunlight.
For basics, photosynthesis is defined as the process used by plants to convert sunlight into energy. Photosynthesis can be considered as one of the crucial chemical reactions on this planet since plants use it to separate water and form oxygen. It is interesting to observe that photosynthesis is also accountable as a major source of oxygen for the world. On the other hand, the hydrogen produced by the splitting of water molecules in photosynthesis could be easily assumed as a potentially eco-friendly and unlimited source of renewable energy.
The efforts of researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK have involved the use of semi-artificial photosynthesis for investigation of new approaches for production and storage of solar energy. The team utilized natural sunlight for conversion of water into oxygen and hydrogen by using a unique mix of manmade technologies and biological components.
According to a PhD student at the University of Cambridge and a member of the research team, Katarzyna Soko, the effectiveness of natural photosynthesis is limited to its basic purpose of surviving. Therefore, natural photosynthesis can produce the minimum amount of energy needed for survival which interestingly is only one to two per cent of the energy that can be converted and stored. Soko further added that despite being aware of the presence of artificial photosynthesis for decades, the initiatives for using it to create renewable energy had been limited due to its dependence on the use of most expensive and toxic catalysts.
The study was published in the Nature Energy journal which showed that the amount of energy produced and stored in photosynthesis could be improved. Researchers were able to reactivate a millennia-old dormant process in algae which reduces protons into hydrogen. The first author of the study, Katarzyna Soko, threw some light on the research by referring to the Hydrogenase enzyme in algae which could reduce protons to hydrogen. The findings of this study are touted to induce promising advancements in the development of new and innovative model systems suited for solar energy conversion.