A milestone discovery at the University of Cambridge means that scientists are one step closer to harnessing the power of the sun and using it to create an unlimited source of renewable energy. The significant step forward was created when water was split into oxygen and hydrogen using a scientific technique called artificial photosynthesis. The process is the same one used by plants into order to extract energy from the sun.
Hydrogen is generated when water is split, and it offers the opportunity of creating an unending source of clean energy. The scientists behind the technique reactivated hydrogenase, which exists naturally in algae, to limit the number of available protons and to compress them into hydrogen. When the water that plants absorb is split during photosynthesis, oxygen is generated.
The team used natural sunlight to make both oxygen and hydrogen using a combination of man-made approaches and biological elements. The solar-generated water-splitting technique was created by the team at the Reisner Laboratory and has caused a great deal of interest amongst scientists and environmentalists alike.
The research was published in Nature Energy and showed that the new method was also able to absorb a greater amount of solar light than natural processes of photosynthesis. Although artificial approaches to stimulate photosynthesis have been in existence for some years, the theory hasn't yet been successfully translated into practice - until now.
The catalysts previously used are both toxic and expensive, but that now the sun's rays can be harnessed there is an exciting new hope for future renewable energy systems based on the findings. The next step will be to identify how the findings to date can be used to produce a commercial solution for renewable energy development.