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Artificial photosynthesis converts water and sunshine into hydrogen

A major step towards artficial photosynthesis is being claimed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California

A major step towards artficial photosynthesis is being claimed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The researchers, led by Gary Moore, have devised a molecular system which is able to use sunlight to convert the hydrogen contained in water molecules into hydrogen gas, which can be stored and used as a fuel. The team claims in a paper in the journal Physical chemistry, chemical physics, that almost 90 per cent of the electrons generated by the system, which is a hybrid material, are stored in the hydrogen molecules.

The hybrid consists of two materials linked together: a semiconductor, gallium phosphide, and a complex catalyst, cobaloxime, which contains a cobalt atom locked into a ring-shaped organic nitrogn-containing compound. Gallium phospide can absorb visible light, producing an electric current which is shuttled into the catalyst complex. This produces electrons which break the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen in water, generating molecular hydrogen.

This is known as a solar fuel system, previous versions of which have depended on platinum catalysts; the cobaloxime is much cheaper.

‘Ultimately, the renewable energy problem really is a storage problem,’ Moore explained. ‘Given the intermittent nature of sunlight, we need a way of using the sun all night long. We’ve shown that our approach of coupling the absorption of visible light with the production of hydrogen in a single material putd photoexcited electrons where we need them to be, stored in chemical bonds.’

Readers' comments (2)

  • If we have " vast amounts of offshore storage" better to fill it with gas, preferably home grown from fracking. Insulate ourselves from Russia and the East.
    And nuclear was never intended to follow our "fluctuating demand" Nuclear givs us the luxury of predictable ,reliable power supply 24 hours a day using fuel from stable countries

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  • But how many electrons does it create.... are any other numbers available apart from 90 per cent.what are the limits and boundaries ?

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