The present global energy consumption is expected to rise at least two-fold by 2050 due to increase in population and economic growth.1 In the short run, this could perhaps be met by using fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil. However, the reserve of fossil fuels are continuously diminishing2 and their combustion continues to be a major cause of environmental pollution and climate change. Hence, the need for the development of an alternative to fossil fuels is rapidly becoming our society’s greatest challenge, both in terms of science and technology.
In Nature, the sun provides an enormous amount of energy. Plants, algae and cyanobacteria trap a small part of this solar energy and convert it into chemical energy by means of photosynthesis. This process has been refined under billion years of evolution and scientists are now investigating artificial photosynthesis as an alternative to current technologies. Success will bring humans one-step closer to generating an environmentally friendly and carbon-neutral fuel.
My research is focused on the development of versatile catalysts (WOCs) that oxidize water into molecular oxygen at neutral pH, driven by the mild one-electron oxidant [Ru(bpy)3]3+, using natural photosynthesis as a model. Here, the splitting of H2O to O2 and H2, or related fuels, constitutes an excellent example of solar to fuel conversion schemes.
(1) Barber, J.; Tran, P. D. From natural to artificial photosynthesis, 2013; Vol. 10.
(2) Simmons, M. R. Twilight in the Desert; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, New Jersey 2005.