What if we could find an efficient process that extracted a pure source of power—hydrogen gas—directly out of water.
Between concerns about global warming, oil shortages, and increasing gasoline prices, what can the general public do? Where can we find an alternative energy source?
Fortunately, the perfect energy source already exists. It’s found in a range of sizes—from small enough to pass through the eye of a needle to a sky-touching 379 feet (115 meters). And it’s suitable for almost any environment, from mountaintops to ocean depths. And, most importantly, the main waste product is clean, breathable oxygen.
This may sound far-fetched, but researchers around the world are inspired by something they see out their windows. Plants—or, specifically, plants’ photosynthesis.
At creation, God gave plants the ability to transform light into chemical energy; and since the 1700s, scientists have continuously marveled at this amazing process, spending hundreds of thousands of lab hours examining the chemical reactions that make this tranformation possible.
Three hundred years later, the efficient elegance of photosynthesis still hasn’t been copied.
The difficulty lies in the water itself. H2O is a very stable molecule and requires a great deal of energy to split into oxygen and hydrogen gas. The hydrogen gas could serve as a clean, burnable fuel, but researchers have yet to discover an artificial and efficient way to obtain it.
Interest in photosynthesis has blossomed into an international attempt to replicate the efficiency of this truly green power source.
Recently, interest in photosynthesis has blossomed into an international attempt to replicate the efficiency of this truly green power source. Two “innovation hubs” have sprouted on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean: the Energy Innovation Hub in California and the Solar Fuels Lab in Singapore. Researchers at both locations hope to mimic plant processes to develop cheaper alternative fuels.
At the California hub, the U.S. Department of Energy hopes to kickstart energy innovation through “artificial photosynthesis.” While past efforts to split water have been costly and inefficient, the Department of Energy plans to overcome these limitations with a three-pronged attack: finding better light-absorbing materials, discovering faster chemical reactions, and moving quickly from laboratory experiments to actual, usable prototypes.1
Solar Fuels Lab scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore are examining the same possibilities. Through “artificial leaf technology,” the researchers hope to develop an economical way to produce “leaves” that extract large amounts of hydrogen from water and help reduce the world’s dependence on crude oil.2
Even with all the technological promise, researchers at both hubs have missed one major detail—recognition that God is responsible for creating photosynthesis in the first place. The president-designate at Nanyang Technological University, Professor Bertil Andersson, misplaces the praise for this incredible design: “We can learn a lot from Nature, if we look hard enough.” While he’s right that we can learn from creation, creation should ultimately lead us to awe of our Creator.
This research will ideally bloom into robust energy solutions. But we should never forget who is at the root of these endeavors—the real source of all technological ideas—God, who designed incomparable energy factories right outside our windows.