Helios Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) -- “Artificial Photosynthesis”

Black Is the New Green | Alternative Energy | DISCOVER Magazine

Scientists are learning to mimic nature to produce clean energy, by re-creating photosynthesis in the lab.

Lilac Amirav is breaking a sweat trying to do what nature has been doing effortlessly for some 3 billion years.
 Amirav’s goal is to tweak this process to better suit the energy needs of a world population that by 2050 is expected to reach 9 billion, a growing percentage of which will want to drive their own cars. She and her colleagues at Helios, a joint project of U.C. Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, want to build an artificial leaf that drips ethanol, or some other alcohol, which you could pump right into your gas tank.

Berkeley Lab

The Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) is one of three Helios projects in which researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) are working to develop fuels from sunlight.

The goal of Helios SERC is to produce carbon-neutral transportation fuels using solar energy as the source of stored energy

Collected from: Berkeley Lab

New Nano-sized Photocatalyst for Artificial Photosynthesis; Step Toward Production of Carbon-Neutral Transportation Fuels

Artificial photosynthesis for the production of liquid fuels is a potential source for renewable and carbon-neutral of transportation energy. The basic concept is to integrate light-harvesting systems that can capture solar photons and catalytic systems that can oxidize water, then to combine this water oxidation half reaction with a carbon dioxide reduction step in an artificial-leaf type system to produce a liquid hydrocarbon, such as methanol (CH3OH), that can be stored, transported, and used for transportation or other applications.

Researchers with the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have now found that nano-sized crystals of cobalt oxide can effectively carry out the critical photosynthetic reaction of splitting water molecules. Heinz Frei, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, and his postdoctoral fellow Feng Jiao reported the results of their study in the journal Angewandte Chemie, in a paper entitled: “Nanostructured Cobalt Oxide Clusters in Mesoporous Silica as Efficient Oxygen-Evolving Catalysts.”

YouTube - Turning Sunlight into Liquid Fuels

An aqueous solution contains silica particles that have been embedded with photooxidizing cobalt oxide nanocrystals plus a sensitizer to allow the water-splitting reaction to be driven by visible light. When laser light hits the solution it turns blue as the sensitizer absorbs light. Bubbles soon begin to form as oxygen gas is released from the spilt water molecules. http://newscenter.lbl.gov/press-relea...