Photosynthesis: Now Possible Inside a Laboratory

artificial photosysnthesisShort Bytes: Researchers at the Florida State University have discovered a way to replicate the process of photosynthesis by the use of a material called Magnesium Oxide or Birnessite. They’ve plans to take their discovery to the next level and create a self-sustaining energy source that is environment friendly too.

The word photosynthesis has always been in use for plants, referring to the natural phenomena in which they use sunlight as the source of their energy and generate their food giving us the valuable fruits, vegetables and above all, the life-saving oxygen we depend upon.

The researchers at the Florida State University have invested their interests in developing a material, capable enough to artificially replicate the phenomena of photosynthesis. Named Birnessite or Magnesium Oxide, this material traps the sunlight falling on to its surface and uses it to break the H2O molecule into hydrogen and Oxygen after the accomplishment of an oxidation reaction, thus creating hydrogen fuel in the process in addition to facilitating an energy source that this environment friendly and has the potential to survive without any further resource input by humans.

While the researchers were busy  finding an appropriate direction for their idea, they also had to find a material that was both cost efficient and also didn’t rust when exposed to water. The answers to these questions were presented in their paper at The Journals of Chemistry, in which a probable solution suggested was to create a multi-layered Magnesium Oxide material, but when they reduced the number of layers to a single one, they were able to trap more light than their previous multi-layered structure, and thus their dream was on the verge of being reality.

Now, the question arises, how a single layer is more effective than multiple layers? The answer to this lies in the concept of band gap. The single layer facilitates a direct band gap, captures the light falling on it more effectively and thus creates more energy, but that’s not the case with multi-layered structure which provides an indirect band gap and is less efficient than the single-layered structure with a direct band gap.

This is why the discovery of this direct band gap material is so exciting. It is cheap, it is efficient and you do not need a large sum of investment to capture enough sunlight to carry out fuel generation.

said Jose L. Mondeza-Cortes, assistant professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering. By using this material, we can also save on our fuel bills that are used up in creating hydrogen fuel cells. He also said:

In theory, this should be a self-sustaining energy source. Perhaps in the future, you could put this material on your roof and it could turn rain water into energy with the help of the sun.

Moreover, Magnesium Oxide is completely carbon-neutral and will not cause any harm to our mother nature. “You won’t generate carbon dioxide or waste,” added Modeza-Cortes.

Also Read: How WiTricity will allow you to use Wireless Electricity?

At this stage of development, the unrealized potential of this material and the method of replicating photosynthesis that the researchers have discovered is only a subject of ballpark estimation. Roof-top installations for energy generation do exist on the check-list of the development plan given by the researchers for the  future.

It is exciting to see such breath-taking technologies in fabrication that can change the way we harness our energy needs without making our mother nature to suffer for our greedy misdeeds.

Write your thoughts in the comments section below, don’t keep them hiding inside your head.

Read Further: Future of Electronics: Light Travels “Infinitely Fast” in New On-chip Material

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