Future Perspectives on Solar Fuels
MOLECULAR SOLAR FUELS BOOK SERIES: ENERGY, T. Wydrzynski, W. Hillier, eds., Cambridge UK, 2012
23 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2012
Date Written: March 19, 2012
Central to the future perspective presented here is nanotechnological construction with enhanced efficiency of each aspect of the natural photosynthetic process into units capable of inexpensive mass production for domestic use. This involves a vision of artificial photosynthesis research that incorporates the utilization of genetically-engineered (or even wholly synthetic) organisms undertaking photosynthesis, but emphasizes worldwide household utilization of structures that are chiefly a matter of engineered nanochemistry.
The challenge of how to promptly develop nanotechnologically-based artificial photosynthesis is explored through a future perspective on the scientific challenges involved in three key areas covered: Light Capture (including light-harvesting complexes, synthetic pigment arrays and dye-sensitive solar cells), Photochemical Conversion (including structure of the photosynthetic reaction centres, optimizing photochemical quantum yield) and Energy Storage (including optimization of photosynthetic water oxidation and catalysis). As the world’s human population rises, global artificial photosynthesis (GAP) (global solar fuels (GSF)) may take the pressure off natural photosynthesis as our primary (and water-intensive) source of food and fuel.
The paper concludes by considering how inequalities and injustices in the use of solar fuel technology can best be avoided or minimized. It extends the analysis to scope the governance, legal and regulatory obstacles likely to confront the future research and development of solar fuels. In particular, it presents the case for a macro-science GAP or GSF Project designed not only to accelerate the pace of such research to meet the urgency of climate change and human energy and food needs, but to do so in a manner coherent with equity and environmental sustainability.
Keywords: artificial photosynthesis, solar fuels, renewable energy, climate change, energy security
JEL Classification: Q48, Q43, Q42, L94, Q28, L98, D63, F01, F13, K33, I18, H51, H41, G38, O32, O34, O33, J71, K42, I12
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