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Title: Comparing Photosynthetic and Photovoltaic Efficiencies and Recognizing the Potential for Improvement

Abstract

Comparing photosynthetic and photovoltaic efficiencies is not a simple issue. Although both processes harvest the energy in sunlight, they operate in distinctly different ways and produce different types of products: biomass or chemical fuels in the case of natural photosynthesis and nonstored electrical current in the case of photovoltaics. In order to find common ground for evaluating energy-conversion efficiency, we compare natural photosynthesis with present technologies for photovoltaic-driven electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen. Photovoltaic-driven electrolysis is the more efficient process when measured on an annual basis, yet short-term yields for photosynthetic conversion under optimal conditions come within a factor of 2 or 3 of the photovoltaic benchmark. We consider opportunities in which the frontiers of synthetic biology might be used to enhance natural photosynthesis for improved solar energy conversion efficiency.

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [5];  [6];  [7];  [8];  [9];  [10];  [11];  [12];  [13];  [14];  [15];  [16];  [17];  [18]
  1. Washington Univ., St. Louis, MO (United States)
  2. Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
  3. Imperial College, London (United Kingdom); Polytechnic of Turin (Italy)
  4. Yale Univ., New Haven, CT (United States)
  5. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
  6. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
  7. City College of New York, NY (United States)
  8. Univ. of Osnabrueck (Germany)
  9. Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI (United States). DOE Plant Research Lab.
  10. Univ. of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA (United States)
  11. Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ (United States)
  12. Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (United States)
  13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA (United States)
  14. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, CO (United States); Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States)
  15. US Dept. of Agriculture Research Service, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana, IL (United States)
  16. Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA (United States)
  17. ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences, Annandale, NJ (United States)
  18. Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, MO (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC); Center for Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Production (BISfuel)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
OSTI Identifier:
1065425
DOE Contract Number:  
SC0001016
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Science
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 332; Journal Issue: 6031; Related Information: BISfuel partners with Arizona State University.; Journal ID: ISSN 0036-8075
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
14 SOLAR ENERGY; catalysis (homogeneous), catalysis (heterogeneous), solar (fuels), photosynthesis (natural and artificial), bio-inspired, hydrogen and fuel cells, electrodes - solar, charge transport, materials and chemistry by design, synthesis (novel materials), synthesis (self-assembly)

Citation Formats

Blankenship, Robert E., Tiede, David, Barber, James, Brudvig, Gary W., Fleming, Graham R., Ghirardi, Maria, Gunner, M. R., Junge, Wolfgang, Kramer, David M., Melis, Anastasios, Moore, Thomas A., Moser, Christopher C., Nocera, Daniel G., Nozik, Arthur J., Ort, Donald R., Parson, William W., Prince, Roger C., and Sayre, Richard. Comparing Photosynthetic and Photovoltaic Efficiencies and Recognizing the Potential for Improvement. United States: N. p., 2011. Web. doi:10.1126/science.1200165.
Blankenship, Robert E., Tiede, David, Barber, James, Brudvig, Gary W., Fleming, Graham R., Ghirardi, Maria, Gunner, M. R., Junge, Wolfgang, Kramer, David M., Melis, Anastasios, Moore, Thomas A., Moser, Christopher C., Nocera, Daniel G., Nozik, Arthur J., Ort, Donald R., Parson, William W., Prince, Roger C., & Sayre, Richard. Comparing Photosynthetic and Photovoltaic Efficiencies and Recognizing the Potential for Improvement. United States. doi:10.1126/science.1200165.
Blankenship, Robert E., Tiede, David, Barber, James, Brudvig, Gary W., Fleming, Graham R., Ghirardi, Maria, Gunner, M. R., Junge, Wolfgang, Kramer, David M., Melis, Anastasios, Moore, Thomas A., Moser, Christopher C., Nocera, Daniel G., Nozik, Arthur J., Ort, Donald R., Parson, William W., Prince, Roger C., and Sayre, Richard. Thu . "Comparing Photosynthetic and Photovoltaic Efficiencies and Recognizing the Potential for Improvement". United States. doi:10.1126/science.1200165.
@article{osti_1065425,
title = {Comparing Photosynthetic and Photovoltaic Efficiencies and Recognizing the Potential for Improvement},
author = {Blankenship, Robert E. and Tiede, David and Barber, James and Brudvig, Gary W. and Fleming, Graham R. and Ghirardi, Maria and Gunner, M. R. and Junge, Wolfgang and Kramer, David M. and Melis, Anastasios and Moore, Thomas A. and Moser, Christopher C. and Nocera, Daniel G. and Nozik, Arthur J. and Ort, Donald R. and Parson, William W. and Prince, Roger C. and Sayre, Richard},
abstractNote = {Comparing photosynthetic and photovoltaic efficiencies is not a simple issue. Although both processes harvest the energy in sunlight, they operate in distinctly different ways and produce different types of products: biomass or chemical fuels in the case of natural photosynthesis and nonstored electrical current in the case of photovoltaics. In order to find common ground for evaluating energy-conversion efficiency, we compare natural photosynthesis with present technologies for photovoltaic-driven electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen. Photovoltaic-driven electrolysis is the more efficient process when measured on an annual basis, yet short-term yields for photosynthetic conversion under optimal conditions come within a factor of 2 or 3 of the photovoltaic benchmark. We consider opportunities in which the frontiers of synthetic biology might be used to enhance natural photosynthesis for improved solar energy conversion efficiency.},
doi = {10.1126/science.1200165},
journal = {Science},
issn = {0036-8075},
number = 6031,
volume = 332,
place = {United States},
year = {2011},
month = {5}
}