'Liquid' fuels from artificial plants could one day be used to heat our homes or run our cars without adding any greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, revealed a new study. Green plants and some bacteria can turn water and carbon dioxide into sugar, an organic fuel, through a process called photosynthesis. However, instead of sugars, synthetic photosynthesis seeks to produce liquid fuels that can be stored for months or years and distributed through existing energy infrastructure.
The research team, led by professor Peidong Yang, has already created an artificial leaf that produces methane, the primary component of natural gas, using a combination of semiconducting nanowires and bacteria. The new study builds on a similar hybrid system that yielded butanol, a component in gasoline, and a variety of biochemical building blocks.
Yang said, "We are good at generating electrons from light efficiently, but chemical synthesis always limited our systems in the past. One purpose of this experiment was to show we could integrate bacterial catalysts with semiconductor technology. This lets us understand and optimize a truly synthetic photosynthesis system."
The research appeared online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences