in Sweden have developed a molecular catalyzer with the ability to
quickly oxidize water to oxygen. Presented in the journal Nature Chemistry,
the results are a significant contribution to the future use of solar
energy and other renewable energy sources, especially since gasoline
prices continue to soar.
team from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm is the
first to attain speeds that are comparable to those in nature’s own
photosynthesis, thus succeeding in clinching a world record. Researchers
in Europe, Japan and the United States have been investigating ways of
refining an artificial form of photosynthesis for over 30 years. No team
ever succeeded in generating a sufficiently rapid solar-driven
catalyser for oxidising water.
has been the main problem, the bottleneck, when it comes to creating
perfect artificial photosynthesis,” explains Professor Licheng Sun from
the Department of Chemistry at KTH.
molecular catalyzer developed by Professor Sun and his team is so fast
that it can reach more than 300 turnovers per second. The speed with
which natural photosynthesis is carried out is between 100 and 400
turnovers per second.
is clearly a world record, and a breakthrough regarding a molecular
catalyser in artificial photosynthesis,” remarks Professor Sun. “This
speed makes it possible in the future to create large-scale facilities
for producing hydrogen in the Sahara, where there’s an abundance of
sunshine. Or to attain much more efficient solar energy conversion to
electricity, combining this with traditional solar cells, than is
is especially important as society continues to deal with rising
gasoline prices. According to the scientists, the fast molecular
catalyzers can form the basis for many changes to come. Not only do they
enable sunlight to be used for the conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2)
into different fuels like methanol, but the technology can be used to
convert solar energy directly into hydrogen.
The next step for the researchers is to develop this technology at lesser cost.
convinced that it will be possible in 10 years to produce technology
based on this type of research that is sufficiently cheap to compete
with carbon-based fuels,” the chemist says. “This explains why [U.S.
President] Barack Obama is investing billions of dollars in this type of
Sun has been conducting research in this field for almost 20 years,
saying that he and his colleagues believe efficient catalyzers for
oxidation of water can be the missing piece of the solar energy puzzle.
“When it comes to renewable energy sources, using the sun is one of the best ways to go,” Professor Sun says.
Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden and the Dalian University of Technology (DUT) in China contributed to this study.
A molecular ruthenium catalyst with water-oxidation activity comparable to that of photosystem II