skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Pipeline from the Sun

With lessons from nature, the sun’s energy can be used to create fuel from air, water and sunlight through artificial photosynthesis.

 

The sun provides a huge amount of energy to us each day, but capturing it is not so straightforward. Solar cells can make electricity from the sun’s light but storing and transporting this energy is difficult and expensive. One way of getting past this problem is through solar fuels – renewable energy obtained directly from sunlight, water, and CO2.

 

This energy route has been used by plants for millions of years in a process called photosynthesis, but this is somewhat inefficient. Artificial devices can reduce the amount of wasted energy and efficiently turn water and CO2 into products we can directly use.

 

In these devices semiconductor materials and visible light harvesters are used to absorb sunlight to drive a chemical reaction. The reaction could be converting CO2 into carbon-based fuels or splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. However, this is challenging, and catalysts which lower the energy barrier are needed to help this work.

Fortunately, plants have the same problem so they developed their own ‘catalysts’ called enzymes to help them store energy. Studying these enzymes gives us insight into their molecular make-up and allows us to develop catalysts of our own. Tuning, testing, and anchoring these catalysts to semiconductors and light absorbers allows us to produce renewable fuels with a low energy cost.

Innovative design and implementation of these devices in the future could position solar fuels as a frontrunner in the global energy supply chain.

For more information visit: http://www-reisner.ch.cam.ac.uk/

Image from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Charles Creissen

NanoDTC PhD Cohort 2014

RSS Feed Latest news

Applications open for Nano Ambassadors programme

May 09, 2019

Do you know (or are you) a PhD or final year undergrad/masters student eager to share the wonders of nano with budding scientists and engineers at UK schools and universities, and with peers? If so, read on!

Kevin Lim's paper chosen as the Editor's Pick in APL Materials

Mar 15, 2019

Kevin Lim (c2017) is first author of a paper chosen as an Editor's Pick in APL Materials. The work was done as part of his mini project.

Applications for Oct 2019 entry

Feb 04, 2019

We are accepting applications for entry in Oct 2019. See 'How to apply' for more information.

40 new EPSRC studentships for NanoDTC

Feb 04, 2019

We are pleased to announce that EPSRC have awarded a new Nano CDT grant of 40 studentships for training the next generation of interdisciplinary innovative nanoscientists