Researchers at Monash University have made significant progress in artificial photosynthesis (AP), which could one day produce a replacement for fossil fuels.
Using AP, which requires only carbon dioxide, water and sunlight, the team has discovered a new way to convert CO2 into methanol.
Methanol is a liquid fuel that has been used in limited quantities for some time (motorsport being one example), but its scope for replacing fossil fuels entirely has been limited to date.
Many ‘conventional’ engines however can be converted to run on methanol. The fuel can also be used for heating or to generate electricity and is also useful in the production of plastics and pharmaceuticals.
“If an artificial photosynthesis process can be developed that is significantly more efficient than plant-based photosynthesis, then it is conceivable that much of our fuel needs could be supplied from ‘solar fuel’ factories that would develop wherever sunshine and water are plentiful,” Monash University’s Professor Douglas MacFarlane said.
“The key to this process in chemical terms is the development of new catalysts - one to oxidise water and another to absorb and reduce carbon dioxide. When the catalysts are coupled with materials that can absorb light energy, efficient generation of fuels such as methanol become possible.”
Professor MacFarlane said the process had been achieved by the research team.
Monash U is not alone in Australia on research into the generation of fuels from artificial photosynthesis.
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