Scientists in the US claim to have beaten nature at its own game. They have created a “bionic leaf” that exploits sunlight to create biomass − and they say their invention is now 10 times more effective than an oak or maple leaf.
Two separate laboratories at Harvard University have co-operated to devise, enhance and test a system that uses sunlight to split water molecules and feed the hydrogen to bacteria that then produce liquid fuels. The next task is to scale up the experiment to produce carbon neutral fuels to combat climate change.
“This is a true artificial photosynthesis system,” says Daniel Nocera, a leading researcher in renewable energy who is professor of energy at Harvard. “Before, people were using photosynthesis for water-splitting, but this is a true A-to-Z system, and we’ve gone well over the efficiency of photosynthesis in nature.”
Photosynthesis was perfected by the plant world over more than 3 billion years of evolution. It drives the entire living world and it is the primary source of all fossil fuels.