Photosynthesis replication could pave way for new energy source

9 Nov 2015

Researchers in the US could be on to a major development in self-sustaining energy following their successful replication of the photosynthesis process with an artificial material.

Being able to achieve photosynthesis replication on a grand scale has long been the dream of climate scientists and clean energy advocates – it is a potentially game-changing way of creating vast quantities of renewable energy.

Using a material called manganese oxide – or birnessite – the researchers from Florida State University say that it can do everything that plants do during photosynthesis, capturing sunlight and breaking down water into oxygen and hydrogen.

By replicating the oxidation that occurs during photosynthesis, they believe they can create new ways of producing energy.

According to Science Alert, manganese oxide is an ideal artificial material to use in the creation of new renewable energy sources, as it is carbon neutral due to its production of hydrogen fuel.

Publishing their findings in The Journal of Physical Chemistry, Jose Mendoza-Cortes and his team began looking into producing a multi-layered material using manganese oxide, but quickly realised that a single layer could trap light at a much faster rate.

In addition to being much more efficient than a multi-layered material, a single layer is also much cheaper to manufacture.

“In theory, this should be a self-sustaining energy source,” said Mendoza-Cortes. “Perhaps in the future, you could put this material on your roof and it could turn rain water into energy with the help of the sun.”

A slight caveat is that the technology is still in its early developmental stage, so it will be some time yet before it has commercial applications. This discovery, however, certainly marks significant progress.

Plant in sunlight image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic