Artificial photosynthesis helps in converting carbon dioxide to liquid fuel

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Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms' activities. (Credits - Wikimedia Commons)

Photosynthesis is claimed to be the most natural and pure process of nature through which plants are able to produce energy by taking in carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen. A new way of artificial photosynthesis is developed by scientists producing high energy hydrocarbons by using gold particles as a catalyst. The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

This artificial process mimics the natural method by chemical manipulations that create liquid fuel without chlorophyll. The goal of this process and the researchers involved is to produce complex hydrocarbons from excess carbon dioxide and resources like sunlight. Compared to gaseous fuel, liquid fuel is more economical, easy to transport and safer. The ability to create clean fuel at a large scale by artificial photosynthesis could be a game changer in the fight towards global warming and climate change as it might one day power our homes.

Prashant Jain who is working on this research from the University of Illinois has based his current research on his previous work which investigated the work of gold nanoparticles as a substitute to chlorophyll and as a pigment that will act as a catalyst during the chemical reaction for artificial photosynthesis.

During experimentation, it became clear that gold nanoparticles could absorb visible green light and will be able to excite photons and electrons. His new study is to convert excess carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons like propane and methane using gold nanoparticles for artificial photosynthesis. In addition to these hydrocarbons, we can still produce ethylene, acetylene and propene to be photosynthesized for energy storage in fuel cells, as long chain molecules contain more bonds meaning that they pack energy more densely. This method of artificial photosynthesis will prove to be worthy only if we can meet the desired efficiency in the conversion process.

There is a lot of work to be done in refining the ability of gold particles to act as a catalyst and drive these chemical reactions for converting carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuel. Jain claims that there is still a long way to go until we set the right gears for this process to be implemented and tried and tested before we present this as a product to the world. They predict a decade more of time so that researchers can find practical carbon dioxide sequestration, carbon dioxide fixation and fuel formation technologies that along with being economically viable also need to be reliable. Such research work towards a good global cause needs to be promoted and encouraged.

How good it would be if we had a machine with us and we just have to put water in it and place it in sunlight and it should give us food instantaneously. What do you think? Would you like to have such a machine? Tell us with a quick and short comment.

Read about Artificial Photosynthetic cells

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