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DOE funds bio-inspired solar fuel center at Arizona State
Date:4/30/2009

y was solar energy that was captured by plants through photosynthesis. The traditional way of unlocking the energy from these compounds has been to burn them, which also releases greenhouses gases.

Over a period of more than 15 years, ASU has assembled a first-class team of scientists who have been studying various pieces of the photosynthetic apparatus, understanding its chemistry and biochemistry, and learning how to design and build solar energy harvesting components based on this fundamental science.

Devens Gust, an ASU professor of chemistry and biochemistry who is director of the new center said, "This grant will allow us to put together a complete system that starts with the absorption of sunlight and ends with the creation of a clean fuel, such as hydrogen."

"It also will provide resources to educate students at all levels about renewable energy, and it could lead to whole new industries," Gust added. "I am especially pleased that this center is being established in Arizona, which has a tremendous potential for solar energy utilization."

The goal of ASU's new center is to design and construct a synthetic system that uses sunlight to convert water cheaply and efficiently into hydrogen fuel and oxygen. Society requires a renewable source of fuel that is geographically widely distributed, abundant, inexpensive and environmentally clean.

The use of solar energy to produce a clean fuel such as hydrogen is essentially the only process that can satisfy these criteria at a scale large enough to meet the world's energy demands. Plants and similar organisms use photosynthesis to oxidize water, producing oxygen and fuel compounds such as carbohydrate and hydrogen. The system to be developed in the ASU center will be designed using principles borrowed from natural processes.

Making a fuel requires not only energy, but also a source of electrons, and the most promising source of electrons on a large scale is wate
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Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
480-965-4823
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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