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From Solar Energy to Solar Fuels

With the world becoming more and more aware of the importance of sustainable energy with each day, new technologies and methodologies have become a priority.

There is a relatively short timeframe in which impact on the environment should be reduced and scientists are rushing to develop alternatives to conventional processes. These then attract the attention of researchers, investors and influencers like Bill Gates – who has now expressed his interest in solar fuels.

Solar fuels is a term used to describe fuels that are generated directly from sunlight, similar to solar energy but in liquid form. The process can be described as artificial photosynthesis; an artificial tarp laid outside collects water, carbon dioxide and sunlight, and uses these resources to produce gas or fuel that is then sucked into pipelines and reworked into hydrogen fuel. This could then be used in similar ways to traditional oils and would, technically, qualify as solar energy.

The difference is that the more conventional and popular solar energy produced by panels is hard to store and has faced many complications in this very area. Solar fuels, on the other hand, could be stored for as long as needed as they do not have an expiry date and do not self-discharge. The liquid is also very high in density, superseding most batteries and would be a suitable option to power large scale machinery. It would also be a significant improvement on existing biofuels such as ethanol, which requires a large amount of corn for a small amount of the final product and the processes need more conversion time.

The idea of solar fuels as a source of energy is under development in institutes such as Harvard University, California Institute of Technology and Arizona State University. Both biological and chemistry-related changes are being explored at this time.

As Dashboard values green energy and sustainability in general we clearly see the potential of solar fuels. We believe it is an inevitable part of future’s energy usage and consumption and while it is at a primary stage at the moment it is not far away from becoming a viable option. We wish to express our strong support for research in the field and look forward to hearing more news on the topic.