From climate change to volatile oil prices, all signs point to a looming global energy crisis. Confronting the growing challenge means that humanity can no longer afford to ignore the inexhaustible resource found in the organic material that the sun provides each day through photosynthesis. Solar energy enables plants to absorb carbon gas and thereby produce not only oxygen, but also matter that the animal kingdom uses for food – and that our machines can use for energy.
Since the Neolithic (or late Stone Age) period, humans have been cultivating this “biomass” in order to feed itself. Yet, even in today’s world, its energy potential is ignored. Beginning with the industrial revolution, humans sought energy from coal, and later from oil and natural gas, but this leads to the exhaustion of non-renewable resources.
Existing alternatives for diversifying energy production are limited. Nuclear energy presents a number of disadvantages, owing to concerns about safety and disposal of radioactive waste. Hydroelectric power is already widely used, while wind and solar energy are structurally sporadic and disparately available.