Imagine a plant that doesn't replace trees, but supports them with its own special "photosynthesis" that exploits the heat of the sun. The energy of the future could also come from here, thanks to one of the most interesting work of the EPFL group of brilliant minds, the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne.
The idea is simple, at least on paper: to exploit a principle similar to photosynthesis, but producing hydrogen, oxygen and heat instead of sugar and oxygen. All this happens through a sort of artificial tree that captures the sunlight in an almost way mille volts more efficient than normal leaves do.
How does this strange "plant" from the future work specifically? Instead of roots and leaves, we have a satellite dish and a photoelectrochemical reactor. The antenna captures the sun's rays and conveys them to the reactor, which uses solar energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The heat generated during the process is then recovered and used to heat buildings or water.
A multipurpose fruit: air, energy, heat
As you can imagine, the hydrogen produced by the EPFL plant can be used in many sectors, from manufacturing industries to transportation. Oxygen also has potential applications in healthcare. The heat produced, on the other hand, in addition to heating buildings, can be used to produce hot water.
The idea of an "energy tree" has been in my head for a while to laboratories around the world. EPFL is the first to find itself on the threshold of commercialisation, thanks to a startup born from the Swiss institute's Renewable Energy Science and Engineering Laboratory (LRESE). The first hundreds of kilowatts demonstration system will be installed in a German metal manufacturing company.
This "triple production" technology represents an important step in the clean and renewable energy industry. This approach based on artificial photosynthesis is expected to attract the interest of many other researchers. If you want to read all of the research, it's published in Nature Energy e I link it here.
Slightly distracted nature lovers do not turn up their noses, who think, I repeat, that there is a lobby of "artificial botanists" eager to replace all real trees with fake ones. Another very important research and all Italian has collected on social media comments that are nothing short of demented.
Think. Such a plant was not born in opposition to Nature, but inspired directly by its principles, to better reap its fruits.
Like leaves in the summer: open up.