In the early 1900s, the Italian chemist Giacomo Ciamician recognized that fossil fuel use was unsustainable. And like many of today’s environmentalists, he turned to nature for clues on developing renewable energy solutions, studying the chemistry of plants and their use of solar energy. He admired their unparalleled mastery of photochemical synthesis—the way they use light to synthesize energy from the most fundamental of substances—and how “they reverse the ordinary process of combustion.
As energy demand grows it becomes increasingly important to be free from fossil fuels. As it is now, more energy is produced from renewable sources, but the challenge is to meet the transport sector’s specific requirements for storability. As energy demand grows it becomes increasingly important to be free from fossil fuels. As it is now, more energy is produced from renewable sources, but the challenge is to meet the transport sector’s specific requirements for storability.
To turn troublesome carbon dioxide into useful chemicals, scientists have been taking a leaf out of plants' book. They’ve now developed a complete ‘artificial photosynthesis’ system that could work on large scales, and fight climate change.
Adam Hill is Assistant Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University, where he teaches about the chemistry of metals. In his talk he explains the benefits of artificial photosynthesis – developing man-made materials that mimic the behavior of plants – including converting solar energy into chemical fuels.
Adam Shaw travels to Boston to meet Harvard professor Daniel Nocera who has created artificial leaf that has the ability to replicate photosynthesis.
Global warming and climate change are directly caused by the carbon dioxide emissions as result of human activity. New advanced and cost-effective materials that remove CO2 from the atmosphere are an imminent need. In Dr. Fernando Uribe-Romo laboratory, he and his team design and create materials known as metal-organic framework (MOFs) that can capture large amounts CO2 and transform it into high value chemicals using sunlight (a.k.a solar fuel). Their MOFs are constructed from inexpensive and abundant elements (titanium, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen), and can transform CO2 with efficiency similar to photosynthesis. Large-scale application of MOF photocatalysts for artificial photosynthesis could help reduce the carbon footprint of power plants and fight climate change.