A group of scientists from Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Institute of nanotechnologies and Kavli’s power and University of California developed a new process of artificial hybrid photosynthesis. This technology is put in action by the energy of a sunlight and bacteria of special types, and its application will allow people to reduce the dependence on fossil types of energy carriers, oil, natural gas and coal.
The system of artificial photosynthesis, where the work principle is described in the ACS Nano Letters, by means of light will transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into certain organic compounds which are “standard blocks” for receiving different types of plastic, pharmaceutical preparations and fuel. Thus, for implementation of the above-mentioned transformations, systems, except for a sunlight, do not require electric, thermal or the energy of other types taken from external sources.
Usual natural photosynthesis is used by plants for transformation of the sunlight energy, water and carbon dioxide to carbohydrates and other organic compounds. In global scales this natural process absorbs nearly the 130 terawatt-hours of solar energy to make 115 billion metric tons of biomass annually. And if scientists manage to give people a chance to use such technologies for fuel production and for obtaining energy, it will significantly reduce dependence of mankind on fossil resources.
The basis of the developed technology of photosynthesis that is in many aspects similar to the natural process, the photo-electric semiconductor converter on the basis of the thinnest silicon semiconductors possessing rather high coefficient of transformation.
The energy developed by the semiconductor converter “feeds” anaerobic bacteria of a Sporomusa ovata type which needs the electric potential of about 200 millivolts under the influence of which they start turning the oxygen dissolved in water and carbon dioxide into acetate with efficiency of about 90 percent. Other bacteria which are genetically modified by Escherichia coli recycle acetic acid and acetates in more difficult organic compounds which are raw materials for further production n-butanola, of PHB polymers and other types still of the difficult organic substances which are a part of a large number of widespread products, beginning from varnishes and paints, and finishing with antibiotics.
Such symbiosis of firm semiconductor elements with systems on the basis of live organisms is a starting point for further development of a completely programmable system of biological synthesis which will be able to be used in the future for receiving a rather wide number of organic substances, using thus, only energy of sunlight beams.