Reverse Photosynthesis to Generate Energy


So the planet might actually end up saving itself

Energy is and will always be a priority for our species. Otherwise, all the technology we’ve spent centuries perfecting would just be here to look pretty. Even though we’ve been trying to come up with an alternative, there really isn’t any way, at least for now, to bypass our dependence on power.

But seeing as most processes involved in generating said power lead to pollution, and climate change will affect the planet for dozens of generations to come, we could, at least, try to be more eco-friendly in out pursuit for power. And we might have stumbled upon a huge breakthrough, as a team of Danish researchers came up with a way to reverse photosynthesis to generate energy.

Well, it’s a little bit more to it than that, but the process is far less expensive and polluting than any other we’re using today, and it can even be used to produce chemicals, further reducing our carbon footprint. But it’s still in the testing phase, meaning it could take years before we’ll see any actual implementation.

The team of researchers developed a process through which the energy in sunlight breaks down plant matter with the help of a natural enzyme. What results from the process can be used as chemicals, biofuels, and a number of other products. And it’s a lot faster than any process we’re using today, reducing not only pollution, but also production times.

According to University of Copenhagen’s Professor Claus Felby, lead researcher with the project,

It has always been right beneath our noses and yet no one has ever taken note: photosynthesis by way of the sun doesn’t just allow things to grow; the same principles can be applied to break plant matter down, allowing the release of chemical substances.

In other words, direct sunlight drives chemical processes. The immense energy in solar light can be used so that processes can take place without additional energy inputs.

Put in layman’s terms, the process can be explained like this: An amount of plant matter is combined with the monooxygenases enzyme found in fungi and bacteria, and the resulting product is combined with chlorophyll and exposed to sunlight. The resulting product can be used as biofuel, chemicals, and many other products.

Additionally, while some processes we’re using today to get similar chemicals take about 24 hours to complete, this procedure is done in roughly ten minutes. So the new technique has the potential of saving time, money, and of course, to pollute far less. Still, it will take years until the process is perfected, so don’t get your hopes up just yet.

Image source: Pixabay