Through photosynthesis, plants and other organisms harness the energy of the Sun to convert water and CO2 into sugars, forming the base of the food chain.
When such organisms are transplanted into bioreactors, the overall efficiency of the photosynthesis achieved is typically quite low, less than five percent.
Recently, a team of scientists developed a hybrid inorganic-biological system capable of driving an artificial photosynthetic process.
Designing the device
Initially, the scientists worked with a system where a combination of catalysts would split water molecules: cobalt phosphate produced oxygen, while a NiMoZn alloy to produced hydrogen under the presence of an applied voltage.
But the key to their device is wha happens after water-splitting generates hydrogen.
Thee energy conversion efficiencies achieved through this process are also more than competitive with natural photosynthetic yields.