New system surpasses efficiency of photosynthesis
The days of drilling into the ground in the search for fuel may be numbered, because if Daniel Nocera has his way, it’ll just be a matter of looking for sunny skies.
Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, and Pamela Silver, the Elliott T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, have co-created a system that uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels.
The paper, whose lead authors include postdoctoral fellow Chong Liu and graduate student Brendan Colón, is described in a June 3 paper published in Science.
“This is a true artificial photosynthesis system,” Nocera said. “Before, people were using artificial photosynthesis for water-splitting, but this is a true A-to-Z system, and we’ve gone well over the efficiency of photosynthesis in nature.”
While the study shows the system can be used to generate usable fuels, its potential doesn’t end there, said Silver, who is also a founding core member of the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.
“The beauty of biology is it’s the world’s greatest chemist — biology can do chemistry we can’t do easily,” she said. “In principle, we have a platform that can make any downstream carbon-based molecule. So this has the potential to be incredibly versatile.”
Dubbed “bionic leaf 2.0,” the new system builds on previous work by Nocera, Silver, and others, which — though it was capable of using solar energy to make isopropanol — faced a number of challenges. Chief among those, Nocera said, was the fact that the catalyst used to produce hydrogen — a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy — also created reactive oxygen species, molecules that attacked and destroyed the bacteria’s DNA. To avoid that, researchers were forced to run the system at abnormally high voltages, resulting in reduced efficiency.
“For this paper, we designed a new cobalt-phosphorous alloy catalyst, which we showed does not make reactive oxygen species,” Nocera said. “That allowed us to lower the voltage, and that led to a dramatic increase in efficiency.”
The system can now convert solar energy to biomass with 10 percent efficiency, Nocera said, far above the 1 percent seen in the fastest-growing plants.
In addition to increasing the efficiency, Nocera and colleagues were able to expand the portfolio of the system to include isobutanol and isopentanol. Researchers also used the system to create PHB, a bio-plastic precursor, a process first demonstrated by Professor Anthony Sinskey of MIT.
The new catalyst also came with another advantage — its chemical design allows it to “self-heal,” meaning it wouldn’t leach material into solution.
“This is the genius of Dan,” Silver said. “These catalysts are totally biologically compatible.”
Though there may yet be room for additional increases in efficiency, Nocera said the system is already effective enough to consider possible commercial applications, but within a different model for technology translation.
“It’s an important discovery — it says we can do better than photosynthesis,” Nocera said. “But I also want to bring this technology to the developing world as well.”
Working in conjunction with the First 100 Watts program at Harvard, which helped fund the research, Nocera hopes to continue developing the technology and its applications in nations like India with the help of their scientists.
In many ways, Nocera said, the new system marks the fulfillment of the promise of his “artificial leaf,” which used solar power to split water and make hydrogen fuel.
“If you think about it, photosynthesis is amazing,” he said. “It takes sunlight, water, and air — and then look at a tree. That’s exactly what we did, but we do it significantly better, because we turn all that energy into a fuel.”
Learn more: Bionic leaf turns sunlight into liquid fuel
The Latest on: Artificial photosynthesis
via Google News
The Latest on: Artificial photosynthesis
- Artificial Photosynthesis Market Size, Future Analysis & Opportunity Outlook 2030on May 17, 2022 at 5:58 pm
Research Nester published a report titled “Artificial Photosynthesis Market : Global Demand Analysis & Opportunity Outlook 2030″ ...
- Bacterial biofilms facilitate biocompatible bio-abiotic interfaces for semi-artificial photosynthesison May 9, 2022 at 6:35 am
Semi-artificial photosynthesis integrates the high selectivity of living biosystems and the broad-range light-harvesting of semi-conductive materials, which enables sustainable light-driven ...
- Artificial Photosynthesis Market Estimated to Experience a Hike in Growth by 2031on May 8, 2022 at 10:49 pm
Snapshot The growing need for clean energy around the globe due to the depleting non-renewable resources may trigger the ...
- Artificial Photosynthesis Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2021-2031on May 6, 2022 at 12:28 am
Artificial Photosynthesis Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2021-2031 ...
- Bacterial Enzyme Converts CO2 Into Carbon Compounds 20x Faster Than Photosynthesison May 5, 2022 at 6:48 am
Researchers discover that a spot of molecular glue and a timely twist help a bacterial enzyme convert carbon dioxide into carbon compounds 20 times faster than plant enzymes do during photosynthesis.
- How a soil microbe could rev up artificial photosynthesison April 29, 2022 at 9:59 am
Erb's research team had been working to develop bioreactors for artificial photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide (CO 2) from the atmosphere into all sorts of products. This animation shows two ...
- Artificial Photosynthesis Market by Application, Technology and Region - Global Forecast to 2030on April 21, 2022 at 7:43 pm
The "Artificial Photosynthesis Market by Application (Hydrocarbon, Hydrogen, Chemicals), Technology (Co-Electrolysis, Photo-Electro Catalysis, Nanotechnology, Hybrid Process), Region (North America, ...
- Global Artificial Photosynthesis Market (2022 to 2030) - Featuring Engie, Panasonic and Toshiba Among Otherson April 21, 2022 at 4:32 am
DUBLIN, April 21, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The "Global Artificial Photosynthesis Market - Forecast to 2030" report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com's offering. The artificial photosynthesis ...
via Bing News