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Turning Over a New Leaf

Science  18 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6058, pp. 925-927
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6058.925

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Summary

Electricity is difficult to store on a large scale, making the effort to store sunlight's energy in chemical fuels one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. Today the world consumes power at an average rate of 17.75 trillion watts, 85% of which starts out as fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas. The world's demand for power is expected to at least double by 2050. To keep fossil fuels from stepping in to fill that need, with potentially devastating side effects, any new solar fuels technology will have to provide power just as cheaply, and it must have the potential to work on an equally massive scale. Enter artificial photosynthesis. Researchers around the globe are working to combine materials that capture sunlight with catalysts that can harness solar energy to synthesize fuels, and recent strides are adding new zip to the field.