De Herontdekking van de Fotosynthese

PASADENA – Tientallen jaren is de ontwikkeling van hernieuwbare energie (en de beleidsdebatten eromheen) grotendeels geconcentreerd geweest op het genereren van elektriciteit. Maar meer dan 60% van de energie in de wereld wordt direct gegenereerd door chemische (vooral fossiele) brandstoffen, zonder tussenliggende conversie naar elektriciteit. Geen enkele reële poging om de opwarming van de aarde tegen te gaan door het verminderen van de CO2 uitstoot kan deze fundamentele beperking negeren.

In de Verenigde Staten en andere geïndustrialiseerde landen kunnen veel toepassingen die op fossiele brandstoffen lopen (zoals luchttransport of de productie van aluminium) niet opnieuw geconfigureerd worden zodat ze elektrische stroom kunnen gebruiken. Bovendien zijn er ook nog fossiele brandstoffen nodig om elektriciteit op te wekken, zowel om aan de vraag te voldoen als om te compenseren voor de onderbrekingen in de aanvoer uit hernieuwbare energiesystemen zoals wind- of zonne-energie. Is er nu echt een alternatief met weinig uitstoot van koolstof dat qua schaal haalbaar is?

Een veelbelovende benadering is kunstmatige fotosynthese, waarbij niet biologische materialen gebruikt worden om direct uit zonlicht brandstoffen te produceren. De zon is een bijna onuitputtelijke bron van energie, terwijl energie opgeslagen in de vorm van chemische verbindingen (zoals die in fossiele brandstoffen) toegankelijk is, efficiënt en makkelijk. Kunstmatige fotosynthese combineert deze kenmerken in een levensvatbare technologie die ons energieveiligheid, milieuduurzaamheid en economische stabiliteit belooft.

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