At the University of Central Florida, researchers have found a way to re-create photosynthesis, the basic process of plant life, in a synthetic material.
The group built a photoreactor, a structure in which light causes chemical reactions. Their reactor was a framework of titanium – a common, nontoxic metal – infused with organic molecules that absorb specific colors of light. The tabletop chamber was lined with strips of tiny LED lights that mimicked one of the sun’s blue wavelengths.
When carbon dioxide, which plants inhale, was fed into the chamber, the gas was broken down into alcohol-based molecules that can be used as combustible fuels or chemical feedstocks.
The team is testing other combinations of metal and organics with other wavelengths of light.
The researchers hope that large-scale devices can be installed on carbon sources such as fossil-fuel power plants.
TRENDPOST: Until now, artificial photosynthesis has relied on exotic – and, therefore, rare or costly – metals. The new technique is a step toward making plants’ energy-creating process affordable and available to humans.