Boost for artificial photosynthesis with solar-powered bacteria
This is the conclusion of scientists in the US who have developed a process that outperforms natural photosynthesis and could be utilised in a range of industrial processes.
The researchers presented their work at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of theAmerican Chemical Society (ACS) on August 22, 2017.
Photosynthesis is the process in which plants and other organisms convert light into chemical energy but chlorophyll – the green pigment that plants use to harvest sunlight – is relatively inefficient. To help humans capture more of the sun’s energy than natural photosynthesis, scientists have now covered bacteria in tiny, highly efficient solar panels to produce useful compounds.
“Rather than rely on inefficient chlorophyll to harvest sunlight, I’ve taught bacteria how to grow and cover their bodies with tiny semiconductor nanocrystals,” said Kelsey K. Sakimoto, Ph.D., who carried out the research in the lab of Peidong Yang, Ph.D. “These nanocrystals are much more efficient than chlorophyll and can be grown at a fraction of the cost of manufactured solar panels.”
The pursuit of alternatives to fossil fuels as sources of energy and feedstocks for chemical production has led to the creation of artificial photosynthetic systems that generate renewable energy and simple organic chemicals. Such systems, however, are not efficient enough for the commercial production of fuels and feedstocks.
Research in Yang’s lab at the University of California, Berkeley focuses on harnessing inorganic semiconductors that capture sunlight and pairing them with organisms such as bacteria that can then use the energy to produce useful chemicals from carbon dioxide and water.