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Ocean photosynthesis: Unlimited fuel source potential

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  • Pat N self only
    From a forwarded message at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fuelcell-energy/ Ocean photosynthesis: Unlimited fuel source potential 28 March 2004 Provider:
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 29, 2004
      From a forwarded message at

      Ocean photosynthesis: Unlimited fuel source potential
      28 March 2004
      Provider: Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)

      London (dpa) - Artificial photosynthesis could turn the world's
      oceans into a potentially boundless source of fuel, scientists
      recently reported in London, citing new research about the mechanism
      which plants use to break up water into oxygen and hydrogen.

      Photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into organic
      matter and oxygen by using sunlight to break the chemical bond
      holding the constituents of water together.

      At Imperial College London, scientists said they were now looking at
      one fine detail of the protein complex that drives the process,
      hoping that a way may be found to copy photosynthesis on an
      industrial scale.

      "Without photosynthesis life on Earth would not exist as we know it,"
      commented professor Jim Barber, from Imperial's department of
      biological sciences. "Oxygen derived from this process is part of the
      air we breathe and maintains the ozone layer needed to protect us
      from UV (ultraviolet) radiation.

      "Hydrogen also contained in water could be one of the most promising
      energy sources for the future. Unlike fossil fuels it's highly
      efficient, low polluting and is mobile so it can be used for power
      generation in remote regions where it's difficult to access
      electricity," he added.

      The problem was that hydrogen bond with oxygen in former water is a
      very stable bond, one not easily broken apart. Barber said
      researchers were investigating the use of electrolysis to split
      water. However, fuel made this way would cost 10 times as much as
      natural gas and three times as much as gasoline.

      "Yet nature figured out how to split water using sunlight in an
      energy efficient way 2.5 billion years ago," Barber said. "By
      revealing the structure of the water splitting centre we can begin to
      unravel how to perform this task in an energy efficient way too."

      Photosynthesis involves two protein complexes, photosystem I, and
      photosystem II. The second of these, PSII, contains the water-
      splitting machinery. Using a light scattering technique called X-ray
      crystallography, the scientists revealed the structure of PSII to a
      resolution of a hundred millionth of a centimetre.

      They found it contained manganese, calcium and oxygen atoms in a cube-
      like arrangement, which provided strong clues about the water-
      splitting chemistry.

      "If we can learn to use even a fraction of the 326 million cubic
      miles of water on the planet we can begin to address the world's
      pressing need for new and environmentally friendly energy sources,"
      Barber said.


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