Technology borrows a lot of inspiration from nature. The first flying machines tried to flap their wings like birds, for instance, and we’re still trying to get robots that walk as naturally as humans. Now, Panasonic has borrowed a page out of Mother Nature’s book and developed what it believes to be a “highly efficient artificial photosynthesis system.”
Taking you back to high school biology class, photosynthesis is the process by which plants and similar organisms are able to take carbon dioxide and some sunlight, converting it into organic materials and usable energy. The Panasonic system works in much the same way, except it’s completely artificial. The system is achieving a top efficiency of just 0.2%, but that’s comparable with real plants used for biomass energy.
One of the more obvious applications here is in places where the system can capture and convert wasted carbon dioxide from industrial activities. Carbon dioxide is implicated in both the depletion of fossil fuels and the increase in the greenhouse effect. The artificial photosynthesis is effectively able to do both of those in reverse, generating “new” organic materials while reducing CO2 emissons. A big part of the Panasonic system is the use of a nitride semiconductor, which has “the capability to excite the electrons with enough energy for the CO2 reduction reaction.”
No, this isn’t exactly “green” energy and it doesn’t nullify all the bad things that industry does to the environment, but through systems like Panasonic’s artifical photosynthesis, at least that impact is reduced.