Science News

Scientists Develop Artificial Photosynthesis System

Scientists have created a nanowire-bacteria artificial photosynthesis system that turns carbon dioxide, water and solar energy into valuable chemical products, including biodegradable plastics, pharmaceutical drugs and even liquid fuels.

A team of scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, have created a hybrid system of semiconducting nanowires and bacteria that mimics the natural photosynthetic process. The new system synthesizes the combination of carbon dioxide and water into acetate, the most common building block for biosynthesis, according to

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Peidong Yang” author_title=”Chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and one of the leaders of this study”]

We believe our system is a revolutionary leap forward in the field of artificial photosynthesis. Our system has the potential to fundamentally change the chemical and oil industry in that we can produce chemicals and fuels in a totally renewable way, rather than extracting them from deep below the ground.


The study was published in the journal Nano Letters. According to the report, artificial photosynthesis system functions via two-step process by developing a bio-compatible light-capturing nanowire array that enables a direct interface with microbial systems. Hybrid semiconductor nanowire-bacteria system can reduce carbon dioxide at neutral pH to a wide array of chemical targets, such as fuels, polymers and complex pharmaceutical precursors, using only solar energy.

The bacteria used in the system is Sporomusa ovata, an aerobic bacterium that catalyzes the reduction of carbon dioxide. It is a great carbon dioxide catalyst because it produces acetate, a versatile chemical intermediate that can be used to produce a diverse array of useful chemicals.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Peidong Yang”]

We are currently working on our second generation system which has a solar-to-chemical conversion efficiency of three percent. Once we can reach a conversion efficiency of ten percent in a cost effective manner, the technology should be commercially viable.


In an unrelated study covered on Immortal News in February, scientists at Harvard Medical School have created a bionic leaf that converts the solar energy into liquid fuel with the efficiency rate of one percent.

What do you think how long will it take for scientist to create a system that is more efficient and that can be used worldwide to harvest the solar energy?

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