When it comes to harnessing the power of the sun, nothing can quite compare to leaves. Using chlorophyll to convert light into usable chemical energy, photosynthesis has long been a source of inspiration for those looking to generate efficient renewable energy. With fossil fuels dwindling and polluting our environment, scientists are turning to the biological processes of nature to create clean electricity that can be used on demand. Researchers at the University of East Anglia, University of Leeds, and the University of Cambridge in the UK have been granted £800,000 to develop technology that mimics photosynthesis, with hopes of producing more efficient forms of renewable energy.

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In order to capture sunlight and eventually produce hydrogen, researchers are working on technology that modifies microbes. As a zero-emission fuel that can be converted into electricity, the researchers funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) hope to produce a more efficient method of generation than already existing solar converters.

“We will build a system for artificial photosynthesis by placing tiny solar-panels on microbes. These will harness sunlight and drive the production of hydrogen, from which the technologies to release energy on demand are well-advanced. We imagine that our photocatalysts will prove versatile and that with slight modification they will be able to harness solar energy for the manufacture of carbon-based fuels, drugs and fine chemicals.” said head researcher, Prof. Julea Butt of the University of East Anglia’s school of Chemistry and school of Biological Sciences.

By using microorganisms outfitted with artificial panels, the UEA team hopes to manipulate already existing biological processes to suit the desires of human consumption practices. By forcing a synthetic relationship, researchers may be able to take advantage of one of the oldest and most efficient means of taking advantage of the sun’s energy.

+ University of East Anglia

Via the Guardian

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