Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sun + Water + Microorganisms= Renewable energy

Photovoltaic cells have considerable potential to satisfy future renewable-energy needs, but efficient and scalable methods of storing the intermittent electricity they produce are required for the large-scale implementation of solar energy.

Renewable-fuels generation has emphasized water splitting to produce hydrogen and oxygen. For accelerated technology adoption, bridging hydrogen to liquid fuels is critical to the translation of solar-driven water splitting to current energy infrastructures. One approach to establishing this connection is to use the hydrogen from water splitting to reduce carbon dioxide to generate liquid fuels via a biocatalyst. 

Fig.1 Schematic diagram of bioelectrochemical cell (Torella et al., 2015)

An alternative approach to the direct reduction of CO2 to liquid solar fuels is to engineer fuel production in organisms that naturally use light energy to fix CO2 to biomass. Notwithstanding, photosynthetic organisms suffer inefficiencies arising from nonideal light-harvesting properties that are not likely to be addressed in the near term.  As a result, the observed solar-to-biomass efficiency by plants typically approach only 1% of the thermodynamic maximum annually or between 1.4% and 2.0% over the growing season when calculated on the basis of total solar radiation.

This way providing a foundation for the development of new biological, H2-based CO2 reduction strategies to produce liquid and solid fuels.

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