View Full Version : Turning sunlight into liquid fuels (Video)

Gary Diamond
03-31-2009, 01:26 AM

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In this video, an aqueous solution contains silica particles that have been embedded with photooxidizing cobalt oxide nanocrystals plus a sensitizer to allow the water-splitting reaction to be driven by visible light. When laser light hits the solution it turns from gold to blue as the sensitizer absorbs light. Bubbles soon begin to form as oxygen gas is released from the spilt water molecules.

Frei and Jiao have reported the results of their study in the journal Angewandte Chemie, in a paper entitled: "Nanostructured Cobalt Oxide Clusters in Mesoporous Silica as Efficient Oxygen-Evolving Catalysts." This research was performed through the Helios Solar Energy Research Center (Helios SERC), a scientific program at Berkeley Lab under the direction of Paul Alivisatos, which is aimed at developing fuels from sunlight. Frei serves as deputy director of Helios SERC

Turning sunlight into liquid fuels (Video)
March 11th, 2009 Enlarge
Under the fuel through artificial photosynthesis scenario, nanotubes embedded within a membrane would act like green leaves, using incident solar radiation (Hγ) to split water molecules (H2O), freeing up electrons and oxygen (O2) that then react with carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce a fuel, shown here as methanol (CH3OH). The result is a renewable green energy source that also helps scrub the atmosphere of excessive carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Credit: Robert Flavio, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs

(PhysOrg.com) -- For millions of years, green plants have employed photosynthesis to capture energy from sunlight and convert it into electrochemical energy. A goal of scientists has been to develop an artificial version of photosynthesis that can be used to produce liquid fuels from carbon dioxide and water. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have now taken a critical step towards this goal with the discovery that nano-sized crystals of cobalt oxide can effectively carry out the critical photosynthetic reaction of splitting water molecules.

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"Photooxidation of water molecules into oxygen, electrons and protons (hydrogen ions) is one of the two essential half reactions of an artifical photosynthesis system - it provides the electrons needed to reduce carbon dioxide to a fuel," said Heinz Frei, a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division, who conducted this research with his postdoctoral fellow Feng Jiao. "Effective photooxidation requires a catalyst that is both efficient in its use of solar photons and fast enough to keep up with solar flux in order to avoid wasting those photons. Clusters of cobalt oxide nanocrystals are sufficiently efficient and fast, and are also robust (last a long time) and abundant. They perfectly fit the bill

03-31-2009, 08:47 AM
Wow! That's awesome, Gary!

Nice find!