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Major step towards ‘artificial photosynthesis’ as device produces clean energy like plants, scientists claim – The Independent

A new device that can produce carbon-neutral fuel marks a major breakthrough on the way to “artificial photosynthesis”, according to the scientists who created it.

The standalone device can convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into clean energy, doing so wirelessly and without any outside electricity, the Cambridge researchers who built it say.

They hope that it can be a step towards using artificial devices to mimic photosynthesis, converting sunlight into energy in the same way plants do.

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“It’s been difficult to achieve artificial photosynthesis with a high degree of selectivity, so that you’re converting as much of the sunlight as possible into the fuel you want, rather than be left with a lot of waste,” said first author Dr Qian Wang from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, in a statement.

The new device does so using “photosheet” technology. Out of it comes oxygen and formic acid, which can either be stored as a fuel or converted into hydrogen to provide clean energy.

“In addition, storage of gaseous fuels and separation of by-products can be complicated – we want to get to the point where we can cleanly produce a liquid fuel that can also be easily stored and transported,” said Professor Erwin Reisner, the paper’s senior author.

An article describing the discovery, ‘Molecularly engineered photocatalyst sheet for scalable solar formate production from carbon dioxide and water’, is published in Nature Energy today.

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