Fuel from Solar Energy

Fuel From Solar Energy

Recently, we brought you a post about Artificial Photosynthesis that explained how researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) believed they were one step closer to finding a way to capture and store energy from sunlight by combining electrolysis with silicon. This week, a team at the University of California, Berkeley has published research with what they believe is a different technology that will allow us to use the energy as fuel.

If you haven’t been following us, developing technologies is a subject that is near and dear to ATS considering that we test for and remove outdated storage tanks and even developed our own tank testing equipment. Scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are constantly creating new technologies that make our daily lives easier, streamline difficult processes, improve the environment, and generally bring us closer as a global community. Every Thursday, ATS brings you a new “tech” that we think is worth learning about!

Peidong Yang, the lead researcher at Berkley believes he has found a breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis by combining it with nanotechnology. While other methods for capture and storage have relied on microorganisms and the facilitation of electricity, this new technology uses semiconducting nanowires and electrotrophic bacteria. The semiconductors harvest energy from sunlight and directly pass the electrons to the bacteria in the wires. The team demonstrated their technology by combining butanol with pharmaceutical ingredients.

The technology should be adaptable for creating chemical compounds and stored fuel. Currently, the system is said to have similar levels of efficiency as natural photosynthesis. However, the belief is that those levels will increase with further development. Yang and his team also hope to develop a synthetic version of the electrotrophic bacteria. This will make the system more reliable in the future.

While plenty of research remains to understand the specifics of the technology, increase efficiency, and decrease reliance on exhaustible resources, it will be interesting to see how this technology develops in the future.