Solar energy has been a technology that has evolved in stages, addressing the challenges of functionality, cost and efficiency. We have made incredible progress from the original solar panels, to today’s thin film and lighter solar energy collectors. There has been one recurring difficulty that has presented a problem; the need for solar panels to collect and hold energy. This problem may now be a thing of the past as SISSA has created a solar catalyst that imitates the energy storage nature has had all along.

Researchers at SISSA have long been examining the method that plants use in photosynthesis to use the sun’s energy in photosynthesis, create molecules that are broken apart and then store the energy for use. The process involves a catalyst that in essence, uses a kind of ‘cut and paste’ concept with other molecules to oxidize water, thereby separating the oxygen from the hydrogen. Hydrogen is already a fuel but is difficult to handle, and is thereby used in synthesis in a later stage that helps to use the hydrogen and carbon atoms to produce sugars. Scientists at SISSA are looking into this process to create an inorganic artificial catalyst. The intention is to produce this catalyst so that it is more resistant and faster than those found in nature.

Attempts to use organic catalysts have been made, but they are not cost effective. SISSA is therefore observing the four atoms of Ruthenium and now that they understand the process, are seeking alternatives that will emulate the process. The ultimate success is to create solar energy panels that will act like the ‘green fuel’ in photosynthesis, with the ability to have immediate energy as well as stored energy. This will potentially change the solar industry and turn it into a completely different direction so that energy can be stored for later use.


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4 Responses to “Creating the Solar Catalyst that Imitates Nature”

  1. 1
    ProblemSolved Says:

    Anyone remember studying photosynthesis in Biology class? I was totaling taken in by the intensity of something that happens all around us, every day, in every plant that we see. Solar energy is one of the hottest topics today and it just makes sense to go back to that class and rethink everything. Kind of amazing.

  2. 2
    BeAsItMay Says:

    It seems we return to nature when we want to find the most efficient processes. This new solar energy research could be an incredible step forward, using nature’s own technology. I know trying to emulate Mother Nature is always a challenge but it looks like this company is doing a great job.

  3. 3
    NotTooFast Says:

    Great idea. Solar panels seem to be a challenge because our technologies just haven’t been advanced enough. If they can do this without contributing any more negative problems to the ecology, I will buy it.

  4. 4
    FatNoMore Says:

    I betcha it was a question from a kid that got them started on this path of research. Today’s kids are really paying attention to alternative energy and this seems so simple (and yet so complex). If we can have solar energy by acting like the plants and storing it for future use, it can change everything.

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