FSU Scientist Develops Material That Mimics Plant Photosynthesis, Creates Energy Source

Posted: Nov 30 2015, 8:19am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


Material for capturing energy
Photo credit: FSU

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Florida State University, Jose L. Mendoza-Cortes and his team has published a finding in The Journal of Physical Chemistry, detailing how they developed a material that behaves much like photosynthesis in plants, and that can be further used to make energy.
Photosynthesis is the chemical process where plants make their own food from organic compounds in the presence of direct sunlight. With Mendoza-Cortes technique, the artificial material he developed with his team can harvest sunlight and then use the captured energy to breakdown water into oxygen and hydrogen through a process of oxidation.

The team of researchers is convinced energy can now be created without releasing carbon, and hydrogen can be burned off as fuel after being transported to other zones.

“In theory, this should be a self-sustaining energy source,” Mendoza-Cortes said. “Perhaps in the future, you could put this material on your roof and it could turn rain water into energy with the help of the sun.” And what’s more, the process won’t generate any chemical waste or even give off carbon dioxide.

A theoretical and computational chemist, Mendoza-Cortes arrived at the Florida State University via the Energy and Materials Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative. He currently carries out research at the High-Performance Materials Institute (HPMI) at FSU, a multi-varied institute of research that develops advanced materials and researchers manufacturing technologies.

Mendoza-Cortes needed a material that would not rust while breaking down water that hold the energy caught from the sun; and a material that would be very cheap to developed while working on the research.

Then he decided to use birnessite, also known as manganese oxide as his material of choice. But they discovered the material was able to trap light energy much faster after several layers of the birnessite was peeled away and it remained only a single of material. This material would be simple to produce, wouldn’t be expensive to create, and effectively traps light better than others.

This is why the discovery of this direct band gap material is so exciting,” Mendoza-Cortes said. “It is cheap, it is efficient and you do not need a large amount to capture enough sunlight to carry out fuel generation.”

Mendoza-Cortes’ research is supported by HPMI, the FSU Research Computing Center, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – where he finished with his postdoctoral fellowship. Mendoza-Cortes’ former intern, Kevin Lucht, is a co-author on the paper. 

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/52" rel="author">Charles I. Omedo</a>
Charles is covering the latest discoveries in science and health as well as new developments in technology. He is the Chief Editor or Intel-News.




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