Photosynthesis sun and leaf CC jkrebs

A new discovery promises to harness sunlight and air to turn plants into fuel — hundreds of times faster than current methods.

You probably learned in school how photosynthesis uses the sun to help plants grow by turning sunlight into chemical energy. Scientists have now discovered what they’re calling “reverse photosynthesis” which uses the same process to break down plant material and create useful chemicals from plants.

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Researchers believe bacteria and fungi use reverse photosynthesis to effectively suck the nutrients out of dead plants, and they think it can be use to turn the gases from rotting plants into a liquid fuel — methanol.

In the process they discovered, sunlight and chlorophyl – which combine to create photosynthesis – when combined with a specific enzyme has the potential break the bonds of hydrogen and carbon in plant cells.

“This is a game changer, one that could transform the industrial production of fuels and chemicals, thus serving to reduce pollution significantly,” University of Copenhagen Professor Claus Felby and lead researcher said.

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Biofuel makers currently use slow and expensive chemical processes to create their products, but reverse photosynthesis could drastically change the way they work. Replacing much of the energy involved with simple sunlight could save enormous amounts of energy currently required to get the same results.

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen’s Plant Science Center say their discovery will allow the manufacture of clean biofuels “faster, at lower temperatures and with enhanced energy-efficiency.”

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“Some of the reactions, which currently take 24 hours, can be achieved in just 10 minutes by using the Sun.” David Cannella, a fellow researcher and discoverer, said.

The researchers published their findings this week in the journal Nature Communications.

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