Monday, October 10, 2011

Science one step closer to less energy intensive artificial photosynthesis

Artificial photosynthesis is the process with the main purpose of converting carbon dioxide into some useful chemical(s), most notably fuel. The primary goal of artificial photosynthesis is not to find new ways to get more fuel but to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and reduce climate change impact.

The main problem with artificial photosynthesis has always been the fact that this process is too energy intensive. This mainly refers to the first step of artificial photosynthesis, namely converting carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide because this process requires so much electricity that the end result is that the bigger amount of energy is being used to produce the fuel than can be stored in the fuel.

Because of this issue science has a demanding task of finding a right catalyst that will improve artificial photosynthesis and make it less energy intensive.

The latest research on this field comes from the University of Illinois where scientists have used an ionic liquid to catalyze the reaction which has significantly reduced the amount of energy needed to turn carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide because the ionic liquids stabilize the intermediates in the reaction so that less electricity is needed to complete the conversion.

However this is still not enough to make the process of artificial photosynthesis economically viable because researchers still need to find the way to speed up the reaction and maximize conversion.

But as University of Illinois chemical and biological engineering professor Paul Kenis said : "More work is needed, but this research brings us a significant step closer to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions that are linked to unwanted climate change."