Reinventare la fotosintesi

PASADENA – Da decenni lo sviluppo dell’energia rinnovabile e i dibattiti politici che battono su questo argomento si focalizzano soprattutto sulla generazione di elettricità. Ma oltre il 60% dell’energia mondiale viene fornita direttamente dai combustibili chimici (soprattutto fossili), senza conversione intermedia all’elettricità. Nessun intervento realistico per combattere il riscaldamento globale tagliando le emissioni di carbonio può ignorare questo limite fondamentale.

In effetti, negli Stati Uniti e in altri Paesi industrializzati, molte applicazioni che si affidano ai combustibili fossili (come il trasporto aereo o la produzione di alluminio) non possono essere riconfigurate per utilizzare l’energia elettrica. Inoltre, anche i combustibili fossili servono per produrre elettricità, sia per soddisfare la domanda sia per compensare l’intermittenza dei sistemi di energia rinnovabile come l’energia eolica o solare. Esiste davvero un’alternativa fattibile a basso contenuto di carbonio?

Un approccio promettente è la fotosintesi artificiale, che si avvale di materiali non biologici per produrre combustibili direttamente dalla luce solare. Il sole è una fonte di energia quasi inesauribile, mentre l’energia immagazzinata sotto-forma di legami chimici – come quelli trovati nei combustibili fossili – è accessibile, efficace e conveniente. La fotosintesi artificiale combina queste peculiarità in una tecnologia concreta che promette sicurezza energetica, sostenibilità ambientale e stabilità economica.

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