Designing Viable Artificial Solar Cells to Boost Clean Fuel Production

Tapping the most abundant renewable energy for the cost-effective commercial production of clean energy technologies, notably hydrogen fuels, may get a boost. Investigators at Georgia State University, U.S., seem to found a way for designing artificial solar cells by better understanding the natural process of photosynthesis. The researchers found quantitative evidence supporting the mechanism of robust solar energy conversion that happens during photosynthesis in plants. The scientists investigated the role of the mechanism known as ‘inverted-region electron transfer’—a process that does not allow the electron carrying solar energy to recede to its original place in cell membranes.

The findings of the study was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017 and provides substantial evidence of the role of ‘inverted-region electron transfer’ in efficient solar energy conversion in photosynthesis.

“Back Electron Transfer” Mechanism Lies at Core of Efficient Solar Energy Conversion

The theoretical work was done by scientist Dr. Rudolph Marcus long back, which led him to win 1992 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; howbeit, the remarkable mechanism with which this solar energy was preserved always lacked proper comprehension among the scientific community. According to team of researchers, these findings will pave the way for designing more viable artificial solar cells. This in turn can facilitate the production of cleaner and renewable fuel, such as hydrogen gas, in the not-so-distant future, opine the investigators.

In plants and micro-organisms, such as algae and cyanobacteria, the electrons when moved by the light energy of the sun never come back, thereby preserving the energy captured. On the other hand, the efficacy of artificial solar cell technology is marred by the electron receding to its original place most of the times, leading to the loss of useful solar energy.

As several nations world over are striving for scaling the solar energy production technology, the key to more efficient one may lie in mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis.