Author: Mukul Vyas
There is a huge difference between humans and plants. We can walk, talk, see, hear and touch. But there is such a quality in plants that we don’t have. They can generate energy directly from the sun. This process is called photosynthesis or photosynthesis. Scientists around the world have been trying to repeat this process for a long time to get solar energy. The results of research in this regard are very encouraging.
It looks like humans will soon be able to copy the process of photosynthesis and get clean fuel from the sun. Such fuel can also be stored. If that happens, a whole new realm of green energy will open up. You will be surprised to know that in one hour so much energy reaches the earth in the form of sunlight that it can meet the energy needs of all human civilization for a year. Iulia Pushkar, a biophysicist at Parazu University in the United States, tries to copy the way plants use to get solar energy.
Today, wind power and solar power are the main sources of clean energy. Wind energy requires turbines and solar energy requires photovoltaic cells. Adding a third option in the form of artificial photosynthesis with these two energy sources would change the whole new energy scene. The ability to store energy without bulky batteries will allow society to deliver clean energy more efficiently. The use of turbines and photovoltaic cells has certain limitations due to environmental impacts. Pushkar hopes that the use of artificial photosynthesis will overcome these shortcomings. Photosynthesis is a complex process by which plants convert molecules of sunlight and water into energy in the form of glucose. To do all of this, they need chlorophyll, proteins, enzymes, and metals.
At present, photovoltaic technology is the closest to the process of photosynthesis. In this, a solar cell converts the sun’s energy into electricity. But this technology is not very efficient. It is able to absorb only 20 percent of solar energy. On the other hand, the photosynthesis process is more efficient. It can store 60% of solar energy as chemical energy. The ability of the semiconductor to capture light energy and the ability of the solar cell to generate energy are limited. For this reason, a simple photovoltaic cell cannot operate beyond a limit.
Scientists can overcome these limitations through artificial photosynthesis. Pushkar said there is no basic physical limitation with artificial photosynthesis. We can imagine a system that works up to 60%. If this system is upgraded, it can be 80% efficient. Pushkar’s team created an artificial leaf to simulate the process of photosynthesis in plants, which collects light and splits water molecules to produce hydrogen. This hydrogen can be used as fuel via fuel cells or mixed with other fuels such as natural gas. Hydrogen fuel cells can power everything from small electronics to vehicles, homes, hospitals and laboratories.
Pushkar’s study on the degradation of water molecules during photosynthesis was published in the journal Chem Catalysis: Cell Press. Scientists have been researching since the 1970s to simulate the process of natural photosynthesis. It takes a long time, but we must not forget that it took millions of years for this process to develop on Earth. Photosynthesis began about 3 billion years ago. At that time, the Earth was about 1.5 billion years old. Based on ongoing research, we can expect commercial photosynthesis systems to be developed within the next 10 to 15 years.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the author.