Scientists studying the conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO) -- a crucial step in transforming CO2 to useful organic compounds such as methanol -- are trying to mimic what plants do when they convert CO2 and water to carbohydrates and oxygen in the presence of chlorophyll and sunlight. Such "artificial photosynthesis" could produce inexpensive fuels and raw materials for the chemical industry from renewable solar energy. But achieving this goal is no simple task.
"Nature has found a way to do this over eons," says Etsuko Fujita, a chemist at the Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory. "Its very complicated chemistry."
Nature uses chlorophyll as a light absorber and electron-transfer agent. However, chlorophyll does not directly react with CO2. If you take it out of the plant and place it in an artificial system, it decomposes rather quickly, resulting in only a small amount of CO production.
Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
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