An amazing breakthrough happened when a team of researchers at the Technion-Isreal Institute of Technology at Haifa, using membrane extract from spinach leaves, developed a cell device that produces electrical currents, oxygen, and hydrogen from water with the use of sunlight.
The bio photo electro chemical or BPEC cell absorbs sunlight and converts it into electrons at an extremely effective rate. The cell's development is based on photosynthesis, a naturally occurring process in plants which is when light drives electrons that produce chemical molecules responsible for fueling all cells in the animal and plant world.
Researchers had to add an iron based compound to the solution in order to make use of the photosynthesis process. The compound acts as a mediator to the transfer of electrons from the biological membranes to the electrical circuit, enabling the creation of electron currents.
The currents that are produced can also be transmitted to form hydrogen gas with the inclusion of additional power from a photovoltaic cell that absorbs the excess light, making the transformation of solar energy into chemical energy.
This can then be converted into heat and electricity by burning the hydrogen, similar to how hydrocarbon fuels are used minus the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
This is made possible since the end product of the hydrogen combustion happens to be clean water and the fact that the raw material with in the distinct combination of artificially made BPEC cells and the plant's membrane is water, this is seemingly a closed cycle that starts with water and ends with water.
"The study is unique in that it combines leading experts from three different faculties, namely three disciplines: biology, chemistry and materials engineering," said Prof. Avner Rothschild from the Faculty of Material Science and Engineering, also a member of the research team.
"The combination of natural (leaves) and artificial (photovoltaic cell and electronic components), and the need to make these components communicate with each other, are complex engineering challenges that required us to join forces."
This can be a catalyst for developing new technologies for creating a clean and sustainable energy from source such as water and solar energy. Something our planet badly needs.