TIME Environment

Scientists Have Figured Out a Way to Convert Solar Energy Into Liquid Fuel

The potential applications of solar power just got a whole lot wider

Researchers at Harvard have discovered how to convert solar energy into liquid fuel, potentially accelerating our switch to the alternative-energy source, according to an article in this month’s scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

At the moment, solar energy can be converted into hydrogen by using photovoltaic cells. The hydrogen can then be stored in fuel cells for future use. But hydrogen has failed to make headway as an energy source in a world that is infrastructurally set up to handle liquid fuels.

Now, however, scientists have figured out a way of using sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. They then use a bacterium to convert the hydrogen, plus carbon dioxide, into the liquid fuel isopropanol.

“This is a proof of concept that you can have a way of harvesting solar energy and storing it in the form of a liquid fuel,” said researcher Pamela Silver.

The hope now is that solar energy will find more takers, particularly in the developing world, where the ability to make energy locally will be a boon.

[Science Daily]

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