Research, Technology

How artificial photosynthesis will provide humanity with natural gas

No matter how much humanity strives to move toalternative energy sources, and the abandonment of natural gas will not happen soon. But will this fuel be enough for everyone, because it is not renewable? Earlier we said that many European countries have already reduced or even stopped natural gas production, as the fields have dried up. Of course, there will still be new deposits, but sooner or later they will also dry up. Therefore, scientists are already working on solving this problem, and even managed to achieve some success. For example, a new, more efficient method of artificial photosynthesis has been developed that allows the production of methane. But what is this technology and how real is its application at the present time?

Scientists have developed an artificial photosynthesis technology that allows you to extract methane

Artificial photosynthesis - what is it?

During photosynthesis, plants absorbcarbon dioxide and water, which are converted into carbohydrates. To do this, they use the energy of the sun. Artificial photosynthesis is a similar process, but carbon dioxide and water are not converted into carbohydrates, but rather fuels such as methane or ethanol.

Methane is carbon surrounded by four hydrogen molecules.

It must be said that the idea of ​​artificial photosynthesisnot new. Scientists have been working on this technology for years. However, it is not so easy to implement it and achieve the desired result. The process is complex and consists of two stages. In nature, at the first stage, the splitting of carbon dioxide and water occurs, and at the second, the atoms combine to form carbohydrates.
Recall that methane is carbon surrounded by four hydrogen molecules. That is, instead of carbohydrates, it is quite possible to get this natural gas.

How artificial methane gas was created

To create artificial photosynthesis scientistsused an organometallic framework. It is a porous material composed of charged metal atoms bonded to organic molecules that contain carbon. The frame was placed in a cobalt solution. The latter is able to capture electrons and move them during chemical reactions.

For artificial photosynthesis, scientists used an organometallic framework

It must be said that in a similar way artificialphotosynthesis has been done for a long time. But this time, the scientists added amino acids, known as the molecular building blocks of proteins, to the mixture. As it turned out, they really brought a positive result. This technology of artificial photosynthesis turned out to be 10 times more efficient than all previous methods, as the authors of the work reported in the journal Nature Catalysis. That is, the gas was formed faster and in a larger volume than it was before.

Problems of artificial photosynthesis

Seems like a production issue.artificial gas is solved. However, according to scientists, not everything is so simple. Efficiency, although improved, is still not enough to produce gas on an industrial scale, for example, for refueling cars or heating houses. This will require scaling many more times.

But, most importantly, scientists figured out howtechnology works at the molecular level. It was the lack of understanding of the process that was the main stumbling block on the way to scaling the production of artificial gas. In addition, the technology can already be applied for other purposes that do not require a large amount of gas. The technology can also be used to produce certain chemicals used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals.

Affordable and inexpensive methane will increase CO2 emissions into the atmosphere

Besides, there is another problem.If in the future the technology can be scaled up and produced in any desired volume, this will certainly lead to an increase in CO2 emissions as a result of its mass combustion. Recall that the need to switch to renewable energy sources is caused not only by the lack of methane or other fossil fuels. The Earth is threatened by global warming, and scientists are already warning that the average temperature will rise by much more than 1.5 degrees. That is, it will not be possible to achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Agreements.

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Thus, solving the problem of energycrisis, humanity will face another dangerous crisis. However, this problem can also be solved. Having mastered the technology of artificial photosynthesis, it is possible to extract hydrogen fuel instead of methane. In the process of its combustion, only heat and steam are released. Therefore, the technology, in any case, looks very promising.