A TEAM of American researchers at a leading institute have found a novel way to mimic the process by which plants use the power of sunlight to split water and make chemical fuel to power their growth.
In this case, the team used a modified virus as a kind of biological scaffold that can assemble the nanoscale (ultra-small) components needed to split a water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
Splitting water is one way to solve the basic problem of solar energy: it’s only available when the sun shines.
By using sunlight to make hydrogen from water, the hydrogen can then be stored and used at any time to generate electricity using a fuel cell, or to make liquid fuels (or be used directly) for cars, lorries and buses.
Other researchers have made systems that use electricity, which can be provided by solar panels, to split water molecules, but the new biologically based system skips the intermediate steps and uses sunlight to power the reaction directly.