Breakthrough study in solar energy conversion


Researchers have successfully split water into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) by altering the photosynthetic machinery in plants, a finding that could revolutionise renewable energy production.

A new study led by academics at St John’s College, University of Cambridge, used semi-artificial photosynthesis to explore new ways to produce and store solar energy.

They used natural sunlight to convert water into H2 and O2 using a mixture of biological components and human-made technologies. It also managed to absorb more solar light than natural photosynthesis, the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy. O2 is a by-product of natural photosynthesis and hydrogen is produced when the water is split.

“Natural photosynthesis is not efficient because it has evolved merely to survive so it makes the bare minimum amount of energy needed – around 1-2% of what it could potentially convert and store,” said Katarzyna Sokól, first author and PhD student at St John’s College.

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