Danish researchers discover a process called reverse photosynthesis that can make chemicals and biofuels. The discovery has a potential to revolutionize industrial production.
Photosynthesis, as most of us know, is a process by which plants absorbs sunlight and convert it into energy.
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Keeping all this in mind, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered a revolutionary process that they call reverse photosynthesis. In the process, the energy in sunlight breaks down plant material instead of building it up and is combined with a natural enzyme. The resulting product can then be used as biofuels, chemicals and other products. The discovery can potentially increase production speed and reduce pollution. Thus, it can pave a new revolutionary way for industrial production.
"This is a game changer, one that could transform the industrial production of fuels and chemicals, thus serving to reduce pollution significantly," said lead researcher Professor Claus Felby.
“It has always been right beneath our noses and yet no one has ever taken note: photosynthesis by way of the sun doesn’t just allow things to grow, the same principles can be applied to break plant matter down, allowing the release of chemical substances. In other words, direct sunlight drives chemical processes. The immense energy in solar light can be used so that processes can take place without additional energy inputs.”
The whole process can be explained in this way. A given amount of biomass, for instance, wood is combined with an enzyme called monooxygenases. Then chlorophyll, the same molecule used in photosynthesis, is added and exposed to sunlight. The result will be a faster, less polluted and more energy efficient production of industrial biofuel like plastics or chemicals.
Researchers claims that monooxygenases, a natural enzyme found in fungi and certain bacteria, becomes more efficient and effective when exposed to sunlight.
“Some of the reactions, which currently take 24 hours, can be achieved in just 10 minutes by using the sun.”Co-researcher David Cannella said.
The current petrochemical industry which utilizes petroleum and natural gas for making chemicals is inevitable for society but is harmful for environment and climate as well. The new process has a potential to replace conventional methods and transform the industrial production of fuels and chemicals.
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However, further research is required before the process can be utilized at large scale and can directly benefit society.