Efficient Artificial Photosynthesis a Major Energy Advance

In what could be a major turning point in the effort to reduce the use of fossil fuels, researchers at Harvard made the stunning announcement this week that they have perfected artificial photosynthesis.

More efficient than nature

According to a report in Technology Review, the researcher Daniel Nocera, a professor of energy science at Harvard, and his colleague Pamela Silver, have created a system that converts sunlight, pure carbon dioxide, and water into fuel. The new advance also has impressive efficiency, converting 10 percent of the sun’s energy into fuel. Natural photosynthesis converts about 1 percent of sunlight into fuel for plants’ use.

The researchers’ new technology relies on a pair of catalysts that split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Once split into these components, the hydrogen and carbon dioxide is fed to bacteria that has been bioengineered to convert the two materials into liquid fuels. 

This new technology shows greater efficiency and lower cost than other similar attempts, including the work of Joule Unlimited and LanzaTech.

For more details, see the report in Technology Review as well as the team’s published research in Science.