Presented by University of OxfordUniversity of York and Botanic Garden – University of Oxford Museum & Collections

Dr Alison Foster
Botanic Garden/University of Oxford

Andreas Bachmeier
Department of Chemistry/University of Oxford

Dr Rhiannon M Evans
Department of Chemistry/University of Oxford

Suzannah Hexter
Department of Chemistry/University of Oxford

Exhibit blog

The Solar Fuels Summer Science Exhibition in under 5 minutes

We have made a little video of our experience this summer, from loading the van, setting up, our amazing volunteers and our interactions with all you future scientists. Hope you enjoy!

Further reading

Energy demand is expected to double by 2050 and triple by the turn of the century. The planet’s store of fossil fuels is dwindling, and their use has the negative effect of producing greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that contribute to climate change. The sun provides a constant source of energy that in one hour could meet the current annual global energy demand, but storing the energy is fraught with difficulties.

Lab -360_310 Secondary

360 degree panorama of the Armstrong Group lab in Oxford

How it works:

The exhibit will demonstrate how the principles of photosynthesis could be artificially exploited and radically improved to provide a clean energy resource to address our growing energy demand and limit global warming. Fossil fuels are made up of the remains of ancient plants and animals which used the sun to grow and survive millions of years ago and are therefore concentrated stores of ‘ancient’ solar energy.

Natural photosynthesis uses energy from the sun, water and carbon dioxide to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, storing the energy in a chemical form, or a ‘fuel’. However, the overall efficiency of photosynthesis is low because the photosynthetic organism has to accomplish many more complex tasks than just producing a fuel such as dealing with environmental stress, survival, repair and regeneration.

An alternative method, by-passing the energy limitations of a living system, follows the light-capturing and fuel-producing principles of natural photosynthesis and could provide a consistent and reliable supply of green energy with only oxygen and water as by-products.

Solar-driven hydrogen production and artificial photosynthesis (APS) systems are being developed to improve on nature. By reproducing the key steps of photosynthesis, water and sunlight can be used to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen is a fuel which when reacted with oxygen releases a huge amount of energy, with only water as the ‘waste product’.  

Lead Image: Solar Hydrogen Production