Research explores ‘artificial leaf’ system for solar fuel production

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Basically the Artificial Leaf is commonly used to refer to any scheme for capturing and storing the energy from sunlight in the chemical bonds of a fuel or we can say solar fuel. Photocatalytic water splitting converts water into hydrogen ions and oxygen. Generally Solar Fuels, such as hydrogen gas produced from water and methanol produced from carbon dioxide reduction by artificial photosynthesis, have received considerable attention. 

In natural leaves the photosynthetic proteins are well-organized in the thylakoid membrane.And to develop an artificial leaf device for solar low-carbon fuel production from CO2, a chlorophyll derivative chlorin-e6 (Chli-e6; photosensitizer), 1-carboxylundecanoyl-1”-methyl-4,4′-bipyrizinium bromide, iodide (CH3V(CH2)9COOH; the electron carrier) and formate dehydrogenase (FDH) (the catalyst) immobilised onto a silica-gel-based thin layer chromatography plate (the Chl-V-FDH device) was investigated. From luminescence spectroscopy measurements, the photoexcited triplet state of Chl-e6 was quenched by the CH3V(CH2)9COOH moiety on the device, indicating the photoinduced electron transfer from the photoexcited triplet state of Chl-e6 to the CH3V(CH2)9COOH moiety. 

Scientists are investigating many of the current challenges such as finding an effective, cheap and earth-abundant catalyst, an efficient way to harvest light, harnessing and guiding electrons necessary to split a water molecule, storing the chemical energy produced and creating architectures that would bring together all the components in a complete, functional system.The way leafs convert sunlight and carbon-dioxide into life-sustaining chemical energy is a resourceful process, and scientists are attempting to do the same thing with artificial photosynthesis to produce the ultimate clean energy. The product would be a liquid – storable solar fuel that’s extremely energy efficient to make, carbon neutral and leaves water behind when used.

It is possible to make solar fuel from the same plentiful ingredients plants use: sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. But it’s not a simple process. It involves splitting water molecules with a catalyst activated by the sun to produce solar fuel in the form of hydrogen gas or liquid hydrocarbons through the reduction of carbon dioxide.

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