For more than 30 years scientists around the world have been working on creating an artificial form of photosynthesis, with varying results. Licheng Sun, professor of organic chemistry at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden, said that the main problem has always been the speed of the reactions.
However Licheng Sun along with his team of researchers believe that they have solved the problem. They have constructed a molecular catalyser which can oxidise water into oxygen at record breaking speeds.
Natural photosynthesis generally takes place at 100 to 400 turnovers per second. The KTH catalyser reaches speeds of over 300 turnovers per second. Now that artificial photosynthesis can be created at speeds equal to nature many possibilities open up for renewable energy sources, especially the use of solar energy.
Artificial photosynthesis could be used to construct large facilities in the Sahara to use solar energy to produce vast quantities of hydrogen, or merely to greatly increase the efficiency of traditional solar cells. It could also use solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into fuels such as methanol.
As Licheng Sun and his team continue to work on the process in an attempt to make it much cheaper, it is possible that within 10 years it could be cheap enough to compete with carbon based fuels.