Reinventando la fotosíntesis

PASADENA – Durante décadas, el desarrollo de energía renovable -y los debates en torno a las políticas que la rodean- se ha centrado ampliamente en la generación de electricidad. Pero más del 60% de la energía del mundo es generada directamente por combustibles químicos (principalmente fósiles), sin ninguna conversión intermedia a electricidad. Ningún esfuerzo realista para combatir el calentamiento global reduciendo las emisiones de carbono puede ignorar esta limitación fundamental.

De hecho, en Estados Unidos y otros países industrializados, muchas aplicaciones que dependen de combustibles fósiles (como el transporte aéreo o la producción de aluminio) no se pueden reconfigurar para utilizar energía eléctrica. Es más, se requiere que los combustibles fósiles produzcan también electricidad, tanto para satisfacer la demanda como para compensar la intermitencia de sistemas de energía renovable como el viento o la energía solar. ¿Existe realmente una alternativa escalable y de bajo consumo de carbono?

Una estrategia prometedora es la fotosíntesis artificial, que utiliza materiales no biológicos para producir combustibles directamente a partir de la luz solar. El sol es una fuente de energía prácticamente inagotable, mientras que la energía almacenada en forma de enlaces químicos -como los que se encuentran en los combustibles fósiles- es accesible, eficiente y conveniente. La fotosíntesis artificial combina estas características en una tecnología viable que promete seguridad energética, sustentabilidad ambiental y estabilidad económica.

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