Two groups of chemists at the Universities of Basel and Zurich have reproduced an important phase of the natural photosynthesis process using artificial molecules, making the process of harvesting energy from sunlight easier. The international edition of the journal Angewandte Chemie has published the results of the study.
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After absorbing sunlight, green plants store electric charges for a short period by using a molecular charge accumulator. Artificial molecules produced by the research teams were able to perform this process.
Two charges stored shortly
With the aid of a laser, the chemists extracted artificial molecules. This allowed them to store two negative charges for a short period of time – a feat that has never been done before. These artificial molecules were stored for 870 nanoseconds - long enough to ensure that they can be used for artificial photosynthesis.
The researchers managed to accumulate the charge without using sacrificial reagents. Until now, charge accumulations in artificial molecules were possible by using only sacrificial reagents. However, since this requires large quantities of energy, effectively converting sunlight into chemically stored energy has proven to be impossible.
“Our results represent a fundamental and important step on the path to artificial photosynthesis”, say Prof. Oliver Wenger (University of Basel) and Prof. Peter Hamm (University of Zurich), who jointly led the study. They have also informed that a lot more work has to be done before the sustainable application can be put to practical use.
Conversion into fuel
The research teams at the Universities of Basel and Zurich are analyzing to see if the accumulated charge can be converted into chemical fuel. They looked to green plants that utilize charge accumulation to create important, energy-rich substances, for inspiration. Artificial photosynthesis has the potential to become a source of sustainable energy in the future.