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A step closer to making CO by artificial photosynthesis

By Tetsuo Satoh |

Researchers at Toshiba Corp. (Tokyo, Japan; www.toshiba.co.jp) have developed an artificial photosynthesis system that uses solar energy to convert CO2 and water into CO with 1.5% efficiency — the highest efficiency achieved to date. The company believes the technology has the potential for utilizing CO2 to make CO — a precursor for methanol and other chemicals normally made from petroleum- or coal-based synthesis gas. Toshiba uses a gold nanocatalyst via nanoscale structural-control technology applied to a multi-junction semiconductor that absorbs light in the visible range with high light-utilization efficiency (diagram). The company says that a wired photovoltaic (PV) cell system with cobalt oxide (CoOx) and gold nanoparticle (AuNP) catalysts promotes the reduction of CO2 to CO under simulated solar light, and that the solar-to-CO conversion efficiency achieved over 1.5% without external bias at the initial stage of the reaction. The efficiency is said to be comparable to that of some algae species. Although the efficiency falls to around 1% after 3 h, it is still higher than the 0.3% achieved by artificial photosynthesis, which Panasonic first reported using electronic materials that absorb only ultraviolet (UV) light. Toshiba…
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