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From Japan photosynthetic panels that produce methane from the sun

From Japan photosynthetic panels that produce methane from the sun

Photosynthesis panels
Credits: Adapted from ACS Engineering Au, 2023, DOI: 10.1021/acsengineeringau.3c00034

New photosynthetic panels to mimic plants

( – The Artificial photosynthesis It is still an area of ​​needed research. And not so much for the question of the efficiency of the natural process (which is rather low), which science is trying to replicate. The real question is the ability to convert solar energy into chemical energy; As plants do, they use carbon dioxide as a feedstock to produce new organic materials.

Many laboratories around the world have replicated the botanical process with good results. There are those who produced hydrogen, those who produced biodegradable polymers with the help of certain bacteria, and those who focused on elemental elements for fuels and medicines. Then there are those they love Kazunari Domain And his colleagues at the University of Tokyo are innovators Photosynthesis panels Which They produce methane gas directly. The research was recently published on ACS Engineering Au (English text) It explains how CH4 is produced by combining the splitting of water molecules, methane, and carbon dioxide.

A self-sustaining process

In the past, the group had already developed a photocatalytic device capable of “splitting” water into hydrogen and oxygen using only the sun’s energy. Now, scientists wanted to go one step further by creating a complete photosynthesis process that could also absorb carbon dioxide and convert it to methane within the same system.

In detail, the team created photosynthesis panels, viz Series of reaction cells all Coated with a photocatalyst Aluminum-doped strontium titanate (SrTiO3). These cells, if filled with water and placed in the sun, release hydrogen and oxygen. The two gases are first separated, then the hydrogen enters a second reaction chamber to react with carbon dioxide to form methane and water. The latter is later recycled in the first step.

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To test their invention, Dumaine and his colleagues created 1,600 cells and tested them continuously for three days in a variety of weather conditions. The plant was accumulating methane from photosynthesis all the time. But as the researchers themselves point out, efficiency must improve radically before these devices become viable options for large-scale energy production.