Plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to make chemicals in the form of carbohydrates. Globally, this natural process harvests 130 Terawatts of solar energy to generate up to 115 billion metric tons of biomass annually. Even if one could harness just a fraction of this amount to make fuels and power industrial processes, our reliance on fossil fuels will be drastically reduced.
Recent work has demonstrated how artificial photosynthesis could help to make useful chemicals like plastics, medicine, fuels etc entirely powered by sunlight. One hopes that this could one day reduce industry’s dependence on fossil fuel-derived energy by powering it with solar energy and bacteria
A nano-wire array captures sunlight, and with the help of bacteria (bacteria based bio-catalysis), converts carbon dioxide into acetate.
Another kind of bacteria then transforms the acetate into chemical precursors that can be used to make a wide range of everyday products from antibiotics to paints, replacing fossil fuels and electrical power.
The research was done at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute, and University of California, Berkeley and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.