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Science
17 Sep 2016

First artificial photosynthesis facility developed

Scientists from the Forschungszentrum Jülich research facility in Germany have developed the first complete and compact design for an artificial photosynthesis facility for usage beyond labs.

This is a giant leap towards implementing such renewable energy sources in practical life.

In context

Artificial photosynthesis: A revolution in renewable energy sources?

What is artificial photosynthesis?

Akin to natural photosynthesis by plants, artificial photosynthesis is the artificial process through which sunlight, water and carbon dioxide is converted into fuel.

What makes the design so special?

The design

What makes the design so special?

The artificial photosynthesis component, developed by researchers Bugra Turan and Jan-Philipp Becker, is a mere 64 sq. cm in surface area.

It can not only produce energy, but also store it for future use.

The component itself consists of several solar cells connected by a special laser technique.

It is possible to construct larger artificial photosynthesis facilities by continuously replicating the basic component.

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Efficiency

How efficient is the prototype?

The efficiency of the prototype, at this stage, is at 3.9%.

While that sounds uninspiring, natural photosynthesis has an efficiency of 1%.

However, the researchers are convinced that they can, within a short amount of time, increase the prototype's efficiency to 10% using conventional solar cell materials.

However, using new hybrid materials like perovskites, efficiency above 14% may well be achieved.

The device is close to market launch

Jan-Philipp Becker and Bugra Turan having already patented their design, are looking to launch it commercially. "For the first time, we are working towards a market launch. We have created the basis to make this reality," said Becker.

The future implications of the device

Implications

The future implications of the device

The prototype solves the basic problem of harnessing energy from natural sources - consistency.

It can store energy, thereby neutralizing the problem of inconsistent supply.

Furthermore, the prototype was built using readily available, low-cost materials.

Based on the aforementioned factors, it is safe to say that the device, when put into practical use, will go a long way in replacing fossil fuels.

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