Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Photosynthesis re-wired

Boston College chemists use nanowires to power photosynthesis
Harnessing the power of the sun has inspired scientists and engineers to look for ways to turn sunlight into clean energy to heat houses, fuel factories and power devices. While a majority of this research focuses on energy production, some researchers are looking at the potential uses of these novel solar technologies in other areas.

Boston College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dunwei Wang's work with silicon nanowires and his related construct, Nanonets, has shown these stable, tiny wire-like structures can be used in processes ranging from energy collection to hydrogen-generating water-splitting.

Teaming up with fellow Boston College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kian L. Tan, the researchers have taken aim at a role for nanowires in photosynthesis.

Their work has produced a process that closely resembles photosynthesis, employing silicon nanowires to collect light energy to power reactions capable of synthesizing the basic compounds of two popular pain-killing, anti-inflammatory drugs, they report in the current edition of Angewandte Chemie, the journal of the German Chemical Society.

The reaction sequence offers an approach that differs from earlier attempts to sequester carbon dioxide with sunlight and solves the vexing problem of carbon's low selectivity, which so far has limited earlier methods to the production of fuels. Tan and Wang report their process offers the selectivity required to produce complex organic intermediaries capable of developing pharmaceuticals and high-value chemicals.

The process succeeds in taming stubborn carbon, which structurally resists most efforts to harness it for a single chemical product. Typically, refined forms of carbon molecules must first be produced to produce the necessary results.

"If we can start to use carbon dioxide and light to power reactions in organic chemistry, there's a huge benefit to that. It allows you to bypass the middle man of fossil fuels by using light to drive the chemical reaction," said Tan. "The key is the interaction of two fields – materials and synthetic chemistry. Separately, these fields may not have accomplished this on their own. But together, we combined our knowledge to make it work."

During photosynthesis, plants capture sunlight and use this solar energy and carbon dioxide to fuel chemical reactions.

Tan and Wang used silicon nanowires as a photocathode, exploiting the wire's efficient means of converting solar energy to electrical energy. Electrons released from the atoms in the nanowires are then transferred to organic molecules to trigger chemical reactions.

In this case, the researchers used aromatic ketones, which when struck by electrons become active and attack and bind carbon dioxide. Further steps produced an acid that allowed the team to create the precursors to ibuprofen and naproxen with high selectivity and high yield, the team reports.

Tan and Wang were joined in the research by Research Assistant Guangbi Yuan, PhD '12, graduate student Rui Liu, doctoral student Candice L. Joe, and former doctoral student Thomas E. Lightburn, PhD '11.

Tan said it is no accident that the process so closely resembles natural photosynthesis, as chemists are constantly drawing inspiration from nature in their work.

"Researchers in my field are always drawing inspiration from nature," said Tan. "You take the basic lessons and you try to do it in an artificial way. In this work, we're trying to learn lessons from nature, although we can't copy nature directly."

Ed Hayward | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>