“Revolutionary Leap Forward in Artificial Photosynthesis”—With Combined Nanowire/Bacteria Hybrid Technology, Chemicals and Fuels Can Be Produced in a Totally Renewable Way

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products, including biodegradable plastics, pharmaceutical drugs, and even liquid fuels. Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have created a hybrid system of semiconducting nanowires and bacteria that mimics the natural photosynthetic process by which plants use the energy in sunlight to synthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water. However, this new artificial photosynthetic system synthesizes the combination of carbon dioxide and water into acetate, the most common building block today for biosynthesis. "We believe our system is a revolutionary leap forward in the field of artificial photosynthesis," says Dr. Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and one of the leaders of this study. "Our system has the potential to fundamentally change the chemical and oil industry in that we can produce chemicals and fuels in a totally renewable way, rather than extracting them from deep below the ground." Dr. Yang, who also holds appointments with UC Berkeley and the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute (Kavli-ENSI) at Berkeley, is one of three corresponding authors of a paper describing this research that was published online on April 7, 2015 the journal Nano Letters.
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