The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to rise, which is one of the causes of global warming. At the same time, interest in promising renewable energy sources is increasing. Artificial photosynthesis is going to solve these problems, using solar power to obtain valuable carbon compounds and at the same time utilizes carbon dioxide.
The problem of global climate change and environmental degradation has challenged humanity to find alternative sources of energy. Scientists predict that by the mid-2020s, most of the energy sources will be renewable
. Solar power will replace coal and other fossil fuels.
Solar power plants are becoming a global trend, and in China alone, the number of solar plants doubled
in 2020. However, current methods of green energy are not highly effective and still impact the environment. For example, the cells of solar panels and windmill blades work for about two decades, after which they need to be disposed of properly.
PV panels are not effective and capture only about 20%
of solar energy. Scientists can surpass this limit with synthetic photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is much more effective, up to 60%. Scientists have not yet found a single method to reproduce photosynthesis on an industrial scale. But in recent years, researches and experiments in this area have progressed far ahead.
In natural photosynthesis, chloroplasts, cell organelles containing chlorophyll, break down CO2 and water molecules. Chlorophyll solves two significant problems for ecology. First, it breaks down carbon dioxide, helping to stop global warming. Secondly, it provides hydrogen, which is one of the most environmentally friendly fuels.
Artificial photosynthesis is a multistage process that requires the use of expensive and toxic catalysts. However, scientists are keen to use more accessible materials or enzymes of natural origin. A synthetic leaf
by scientists at the University of Cambridge absorbs CO2 and water, and produces oxygen and formic acid, using light and cobalt-based catalyst. The leaf is autonomous and does not produce any by-products. The prototype is only 20 cm2, but the creators are ready to scale it and assure that they will be able to do it without huge costs. synthetic leaves can be produced on about the same scale as solar panels.
, Professor of Energy and Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, received the annual Global Energy Award for the invention of solar cells based on nanoparticles. This technology allows receiving oxygen and organic compounds from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. The device is a hybrid system - a cover of nanowire-based on silicon and bacteria, which captures solar photons, breaks down carbon dioxide molecules, and produces nutrients. Bacteria can reproduce, which solves the problem of ensuring the conquerors of planets in the future. Such a bio generator would be necessary for the colonization of the red planet, but the device will be useful on Earth as well. The device would provide people not only with oxygen but also with fuel.
have made nano systems stable and self-repairing.
There is evidence that natural photosynthesis begins to go faster
due to the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, it will still not be enough to fight deforestation and CO2 emissions and provide the planet with clean air.
Imperial College London created the BioSolar
Leaf startup. The project builds structures for buildings or open space, like solar panels, which house microscopic plants. The area of these structures is equal to the size of one tree, and they remove as much carbon dioxide as 100 trees.
The topic of energy supply and energy conservation is now one of the fundamental business issues
. Following requirements from the government, consumers, and shareholders, energy providers are concerned about doing business as responsibly to the environment and society as possible.
The analysts of Centrica Business Solutions
surveyed more than 1.500 managers responsible for business energy supply from seven industries in ten countries in Europe and America. A similar Centrica poll was conducted two years earlier, in 2017. During this period, "social and environmental responsibility of business" moved from sixth to third place in the list of the top ten organizational priorities. The first two places remained the same: the efficiency of the company and strong financial results.
But it is not enough for a company to work effectively. There must be a clear understanding of how a company can reduce CO2 emissions
. It can be production processes with minimal impact on the environment, careful choice of suppliers, or a comprehensive control of emissions and transition green energy
According to Bloomberg
analysts, for January-May 2021, the world's leading banks financed a variety of green projects for $203 billion, while the hydrocarbon industry accounted for only $189 billion in investments. It is a turnaround since the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement
on climate change by 2050 requires significant investments in green projects. The support of the banking sector is crucial for green developments, and this support has become valuable. New energy sources, solutions to capture CO2 and other green projects are the foundation of the future for society and business.
Clean fuel without any toxic by-products makes artificial photosynthesis an ideal source of energy. It does not require mining, cultivation, or drilling and can be limitless. Most likely, scientists will need at least another ten years to create cost-effective ways to absorb CO2 and convert it into liquid fuel. But every discovery in this area brings us closer to this point.