For millions of years, plants have been using photosynthesis to turn water into fuel via natural sunlight… so why can’t we do the same? According to researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, we can.
Researchers have created an artificial leaf that is able to separate hydrogen atoms from water molecules in a process powered by electricity. After the hydrogen atoms are separated, they can then be used to create fuel to fuel cars, to power homes, and eventually, to possibility power entire communities.
While this artificial photosynthesis process isn’t anything new, the efficiency of it has increased dramatically. In order to be considered worthwhile, the process must conserve at least 10 percent of energy. Back in 2011, the first artificial leaf conserved only 4.7 percent of energy. Today’s leaf, however, conserves 22 percent, making the process the most efficient ever seen.
While it sounds expensive, the artificial photosynthesis is relatively cheap and the energy created is easy to store. In addition, the fuel is an incredibly clean form of energy, containing no carbon and producing zero emissions. Both of these factors make the process even more practical for future use.
In addition to researchers in Melbourne, there are several other teams experimenting with artificial photosynthesis, including those from Arizona State University, Chicago’s Argonne National Laboratory, the University of California, and more. If experiments continue to go well, we may see a clean, natural, and affordable energy to power our future.