Panansonic develops world's most efficient artificial photosynthesis system


August 2, 2012

A newly developed "artificial photosynthesis" system from Panasonic could be used to turn carbon dioxide into harmless organic compounds (Photo: Shutterstock)

A newly developed "artificial photosynthesis" system from Panasonic could be used to turn carbon dioxide into harmless organic compounds (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Panasonic has recently developed an artificial photosynthesis system that, using a simple and straightforward process, can convert carbon dioxide into clean organic materials with what it says record efficiency. This development may lead to the creation of a compact way of capturing pollution from incinerators and electric power plants and converting them into harmless – even useful – compounds.

Over the last few years, we've covered a number of artificial photosynthesis systems that could use sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Some of them could do it cheaply and reliably, operating ten times more efficiently than real leaves.

The "artificial photosynthesis" developed here, however, takes things to a new level: it not only splits water into its atomic components, but also uses the resulting hydrogen to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into formic acid (HCO2H) – the same stuff that makes ant bites sting, and is used in the chemical industry to make dyes and fragrances.

The technology sees light shine on a nitride semiconductor inside a water container, where the nitride acts as a photo-electrode and splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. Then, boosted by a metal catalyst, the electrons are excited with enough energy for CO2 reduction to take place and create formic acid.

The solution is remarkably simple, much more so than previous attempts. Past systems relied on complicated multi-stage processes and often employed complex organic compounds. But, the researchers found, such compounds can limit overall performance. With their all-inorganic artificial photosynthesis system, the researchers achieved a record efficiency of 0.2 percent, which they claim is a significant improvement over previous results.

Crucially, because this system is scalable, can rely on both direct sunlight and focused light, and the amount of reaction products is exactly proportional to the light power, the researchers say it could be used to capture and convert wasted carbon dioxide from incinerators and electrical generation plants.

Source: Panasonic Corporation

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion. All articles by Dario Borghino

Record efficiency? Hmm..... 0.2 percent still seems very low as far as efficiency is concerned. If it were 30% efficient, it would truly be a breakthrough.


Well this could become profitable. Formic acid is one of the most effective ways to store hydrogen and this article is about a cheap catalyst that converts the formic acid to hydrogen. obviously we end up wit more co2 but energy independence is critical at this point. Its been just about 10 years that we have actually put real effort in to green tech and a lot of the pieces are actually coming together. imagine if we hadn't called it hippy sh#t for 60 years.


Fantastic! This should be big news worldwide.

Phil Dewar

What is limiting the efficiency is the catalyst for CO2 reduction. May be we should look more closely to the photosynthesis mechanism of plant. Finally if CO2 could be converted into Glucose, would be an ideal repository for long term CO2 fixation.

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