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人工光合作用将CO2转化为燃料

2017-12-21 来源:科普中国-科技前沿大师谈

美国佛罗里达州立大学科学家发现,人工触发合成材料中的光合作用,可以将温室气体的主要成分CO2转化为清洁空气,同时产生能量,具有改善空气质量和创造清洁能源的巨大潜力。这一成果发表在最近一期的《材料化学学报》上。

物理学家组织网26日报道,这项突破意义重大。费尔南多·尤里布-罗莫教授说:“从科学角度看,制造出能够吸收特定颜色光的材料本身非常困难,而从社会角度看,我们正好需要发展能帮助减少温室气体的实用技术。”

尤里布-罗莫和他的团队创造的触发化学反应的方法,被称为金属有机骨架(MOF),能模拟植物光合作用,分解CO2的同时,生成提供能源的太阳能燃料。

多年来,科学家一直在追求将可见光进行化学转化的方法。虽然紫外线具有足够的能量,允许二氧化钛等普通材料中产生类似反应,但紫外线仅占可接收太阳光的4%,而紫色到红色波长的可见光占了大部分,却很少有材料可以“拾取”这些能量较低的光。研究人员已经尝试了各种材料,但可以吸收可见光的材料往往是稀有昂贵材料,如铂、铼和铱等,使得工艺成本极高。

尤里布-罗莫团队使用一种常见的无毒金属钛,添加有机分子后作为光的接收天线,由蓝色LED光反应器组成的发光蓝色圆筒,模仿太阳的蓝色波长,CO2缓慢加入到圆筒中,慢慢发生化学反应后,被还原成两种形式的碳——太阳能燃料甲酸和甲酰胺,同时,圆筒内的空气得到净化。

现在,团队的目标是继续调整该方法,观察其他可见光波长是否也能被触发与合成材料的化学反应。“若可行,这个过程可能是减少温室气体的重要途径,并催生新的技术和基础设施”,尤里布-罗莫举例,如建立能够捕获大量CO2的电厂,或将这种材料制成可以清洁空气并提供家用能源的屋顶。

总编辑圈点

太阳能取之不尽、用之不竭,有潜力可持续地满足未来能源的所有需求,但始终有一个难题,就是太阳能很难储存。地球上的植物很厉害,它能通过光合作用,将二氧化碳和水转化为有机物,并释放出氧气,同时完成了光能向有机物中化学能的能量转化。尽早掌握人工光合作用,就有望为材料科学、能源技术和环境治理提供“三方共赢”的利器。

 

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责任编辑:科普云

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