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Sustainable
Development Goals

Will Artificial Photosynthesis

Satisfy the Growing Demand for Fuel?

The demand for oil is ever growing and its consumption is hardly expected to fall owing to growing energy demand. However, even though the need for oil is growing, various factors such as the price of oil, and growing oil pollution is affecting its use. Moreover, the geopolitical event has also caused disruption in the supply of oil. One of the instances in Russia’s Ukraine War has caused a shift in the demand for oil. In order to satisfy this demand for oil the use of alternative solutions is growing. Hence, the preference for conventional fossil fuel was growing in recent years, owing to the growing depletion of natural resources more alternatives have been researched. Every year, nearly 87 billion natural resources are depleted every year. Among different alternatives, artificial photosynthesis is the recent new method being researched.

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How Artificial Photosynthesis Produces Oil?

Through utilizing artificial photosynthesis, a scientist has successfully manufactured oil by making use of water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight. Researchers are able to develop systems that make use of these natural resources to transform solar energy into chemical energy and deposit it in the bonds of fuel by simulating this process. Artificial photosynthesis is able to produce different types of fuel which include hydrocarbon in the form of methanol (CH3OH), formic acid (HCOOH), carbon monoxide (CO), and methane (CH4), or pure hydrogen fuel. Additionally, the devices used in this process are photoelectrochemical cells or photovoltaic-coupled electrolyzers.

Understanding the process in detail

  • 1. The first major process is to split water into hydrocarbon and oxygen with the help of sunlight along with photocatalyst which actually plays a significant role. Without the assistance of electricity, water is divided into hydrogen and oxygen by focusing light on a catalyst that is in the structure of a sheet and submerged in water. Due to the application of solar energy, this approach has the benefit of not producing CO2 throughout the production stage.
  • 2. Further, in order to split hydrogen from the released mixed gas of hydrogen and oxygen separating membrane is used. It is essential to properly and safely segregate hydrogen from oxygen since the combination of the two gases, hydrogen, and oxygen, is explosive.
An application where fuel generated by

artificial photosynthesis could be used

  • Transportation – Recently the demand for electric vehicle working on batteries is boosting. However, the weight of batteries is much heavier than fuel tanks and takes up huge space. As a result, a solution that would not replace fuel and also wouldn’t lead to global warming was needed. Hence, the study of artificial photosynthesis is growing.
  • Generate Electricity – Between 2010 to 2021, the demand for electricity all across the world increased by about 380 TWh. In the first half of 2022, the demand reached approximately 13,390 TWh from about 13,000 in 2021 from the same period. Hydrogen generated from artificial photosynthesis could be used for power generation. However, this couldn’t be used for bigger projects, but still, studies have revealed that with more improvement in this, soon in the future it could also satisfy the electricity demand of people. Additionally, the research has been conducted for the use of artificial photosynthesis for the production of plastic. Synthetic plastic is completely being estimated to be replaced with renewable properties. Various gadgets consisting of plastic coatings such as mobile phones, laptops, various medical instruments, and more, would be replaced with renewable plastics.
Difference between Natural

Photosynthesis and Artificial Photosynthesis

In contrast to natural photosynthesis, which generates glucose and oxygen from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, artificial photosynthesis involves preserving solar energy in the chemical bonds of solar fuel. Consequently, the three main processes of artificial photosynthesis are equivalent to those of natural photosynthesis: light absorption to attain an excited state, development, separation of charges, and chemical conversion to produce fuel.

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Which regions are playing more

emphasis on artificial photosynthesis?

Asia Pacific region has the high demand for oil, resulting in high prevalence of pollution caused by fossil fuel. For instance, Asia Pacific region oil consumption has increased to nearly 36 million barrels per day in 2021 from about 30 million barrels per day in 2012. Hence, various initiatives have been launched by this region to boost the adoption of artificial photosynthesis. In 2022, Japan was setting up the framework for another major test which will use artificial photosynthesis, a developing technology that is expected to revolutionize attempts for lowering carbon emissions globally. The government of Japan-funded initiative, which intended to put the technology to the test in 2030, is scheduled to be carried out by the University of Tokyo in collaboration with companies including Mitsubishi Chemical and Toyota Motor along with research organizations. Through having chemical companies agree to the technique, the idea is to commercialize it by 2040. Additionally, in 2020, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) stated that with the goal of enhancing artificial photosynthesis—the process by which fuels are produced from sunlight it would fund USD 100 million over five years for two new awards.

Artificial Photosynthesis Market Outlook

The sector for artificial photosynthesis is set to generate the largest revenue of USD 258 Million by the end of 2035. This revenue was about USD 68 Million in 2022. This growth is set to be at pace of about 17% CAGR over the forecast 2023-2035.

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Further of Artificial Photosynthesis

Considering the fact that currently used artificial photosynthesis techniques are much less effective than the natural process, improvements are being made. The fact that molecular nanoparticles of artificial photosynthesis are less expensive, less heavy, and more environmentally friendly than current solar panels technology is one of the factors pushing the further advancement of the technology. To limit the dependence on current energy sources the use of artificial photosynthesis is estimated to grow. Also, this method is set to reverse the effect of global warming since it takes carbon dioxide and gives oxygen. Additionally, hydrogen generated from artificial photosynthesis may be employed to fuel modified combustion engines or fuel batteries in hybrid-electric vehicles. Furthermore, it can be utilized as a non-fossil chemical feedstock to create ammonia, which is essential for the manufacture of food.

Conclusion

Artificial photosynthesis is anticipated to satisfy the energy demand. However, the demand for energy by population is ever growing and limitless. Hence, if this demand keeps rising, the process would not be able to provide the energy needed since the ratio keeps changing every year and artificial photosynthesis wouldn’t be able to meet the ratio. This process is new and still research is going on. Hence, the dependence on fossil fuels might remain the same, and owing to other alternatives this process is expected to hinder. However, government initiatives would influence the boost the research activities. Moreover, owing to advancements in technology and research 10 times more efficient artificial photosynthesis has been created as compared to existing systems by chemists.

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Swara Keni

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