Scientists have been trying to find new potential energy sources since realizing the amount of oil is quickly depleting. Since the beginning of the scarcity of oil, corn has been used to make ethanol gasoline.
Fracking and intense oil rigging in the ocean have supplied the world with its fill for now, but in a world of electric cars, what could possibly be the future energy source?
Simple: solar energy.
I know what you might be thinking: there’s no way that solar energy could power a car, let alone turn into liquid fuel. But rest assured that on top of wind and solar energy powerhouses across the world, scientists have discovered that solar energy might be able to turn into liquid fuel when exposed to a certain bacteria.
The process is simple, or so it seems. Scientists have figured out how to use sunlight to split water into its basic components, hydrogen and oxygen, using an artificial leaf. Once the cell is split, a genetically engineered bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha combines with hydrogen and carbon dioxide to create isopropanol, a type of liquid fuel.
“We’re almost at a 1 percent efficiency rate of converting sunlight into isopropanol,” Daniel Nocera, a professor of energy at Harvard University and one of the authors of the study, said in a Feb. 9 release.
The study hopes to yield at least a 5 percent efficiency rate, the release stated.
“This is a proof of concept that you can have a way of harvesting solar energy and storing it in the form of a liquid fuel,” said Pamela Silver, a co-author on Harvard’s research, said in the release. “Dan’s formidable discovery of the catalyst really set this off, and we had a mission of wanting to interface some kinds of organisms with the harvesting of solar energy. It was a perfect match.”
I’ve always been fascinated by solar energy. My house doesn’t have solar panels on it, only because I don’t come from a place with very much sunlight. But, this way of converting solar energy into liquid fuel might be the next big thing. Sooner or later, we might find cars running solely on solar power. Hopefully that becomes the norm, because it’s healthy for the environment.
“It’s not like we’re trying to make some super-convoluted system,” Silver said. “Instead, we are looking for simplicity and ease of use.”
If this process can be experimented with enough to become the new leading source of fuel, the world would be taking a step in the right direction.