[p2p-research] Solar energy and the artificial leaf

Ryan rlanham1963 at gmail.com
Fri Nov 6 01:26:41 CET 2009

  Sent to you by Ryan via Google Reader: Solar energy and the artificial
leaf via David Kirkpatrick by davidkirkpatrick on 11/5/09

Very interesting solar breakthrough, or near to it at least. Plus more
on the state of the solar industry.

The release:
Chemists describe solar energy progress and challenges, including the
‘artificial leaf’
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2009 — Scientists are making progress toward
development of an “artificial leaf” that mimics a real leaf’s chemical
magic with photosynthesis — but instead converts sunlight and water
into a liquid fuel such as methanol for cars and trucks. That is among
the conclusions in a newly-available report from top authorities on
solar energy who met at the 1st Annual Chemical Sciences and Society
Symposium. The gathering launched a new effort to initiate
international cooperation and innovative thinking on the global energy

The three-day symposium, which took place in Germany this past summer,
included 30 chemists from China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and
the United States. It was organized through a joint effort of the
science and technology funding agencies and chemical societies of each
country, including the U. S. National Science Foundation and the
American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific
society. The symposium series was initiated though the ACS Committee on
International Activities in order to offer a unique forum whereby
global challenges could be tackled in an open, discussion-based
setting, fostering innovative solutions to some of the world’s most
daunting challenges.

A “white paper” entitled “Powering the World with Sunlight,” describes
highlights of the symposium and is available along with related
materials here.

“The sun provides more energy to the Earth in an hour than the world
consumes in a year,” the report states. “Compare that single hour to
the one million years required for the Earth to accumulate the same
amount of energy in the form of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are not a
sustainable resource, and we must break our dependence on them. Solar
power is among the most promising alternatives.”

The symposium focused on four main topics:

- Mimicking photosynthesis using synthetic materials such as the
“artificial leaf”
- Production and use of biofuels as a form of stored solar energy
- Developing innovative, more efficient solar cells
- Storage and distribution of solar energy

The scientists pointed out during the meeting that plants use solar
energy when they capture and convert sunlight into chemical fuel
through photosynthesis. The process involves the conversion of water
and carbon dioxide into sugars as well as oxygen and hydrogen.
Scientists have been successful in mimicking this fuel-making process,
termed artificial photosynthesis, but now must finds ways of doing so
in ways that can be used commercially. Participants described progress
toward this goal and the scientific challenges that must be met before
solar can be a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Highlights of the symposium include a talk by Kazunari Domen, Ph.D., of
the University of Tokyo in Japan. Domen described current research on
developing more efficient and affordable catalysts for producing
hydrogen using a new water-splitting technology called “photocatalytic
overall water splitting.” The technology uses light-activated
nanoparticles, each 1/50,000 the width of a human hair, to convert
water to hydrogen. This technique is more efficient and less expensive
than current technologies, he said.

Domen noted that the ultimate goal of artificial photosynthesis is to
produce a liquid fuel, such as methanol, or “wood alcohol.” Achieving
this goal would fulfil the vision of creating an “artificial leaf” that
not only splits water but uses the reaction products to create a more
usable fuel, similar to what leaves do.

Among the “take-home messages” cited in the report:

- There’s no single best solution to the energy problem. Scientists
must seek more affordable, sustainable solutions to the global energy
challenge by considering all the options.
- Investing in chemistry is investing in the future. Strong basic
research is fundamental to realizing the potential of solar energy and
making it affordable for large-scale use.
- Society needs a new generation of “energy scientists” to explore new
ways to capture, convert, and store solar energy.

“The meeting was an experiment worth trying,” said Teruto Ohta,
executive director of the Chemical Society of Japan.

Conference organizers expressed hope that the symposium will be the
first of several to tackle “the global challenges of the 21st century
and the indispensible role that the chemical sciences play in
addressing these issues,” said Klaus Mullen, president of the German
Chemistry Association.

“Building on the success of this first symposium, we’re now gearing up
for the future, convening top chemical scientists to address other,
equally pressing global challenges,” said Julie Callahan of the ACS
Office of International Activities and principal investigator on the
project. “It is an exciting time to be a chemist!”


The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by
the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s
largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to
chemistry-related research through its multiple databases,
peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are
in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Things you can do from here:
- Subscribe to David Kirkpatrick using Google Reader
- Get started using Google Reader to easily keep up with all your
favorite sites
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/attachments/20091106/d7c79483/attachment.html>

More information about the p2presearch mailing list