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Trees are natural

  1. Feb 17, 2017 #1
    A tree seed takes water and minerals(?) from the ground, carbon and oxygen(?) from the air, and heat and light(?) from the sun. When a tree dies and dries up, it can be used as firewood, a source of energy.

    Is there a way to capture that energy without the seed-tree scenario? i.e., but can we imitate a tree's energy capturing function?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2017 #2


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    You mean a solar panel? The other materials the tree gathers are still there, after you burnt it.
  4. Feb 17, 2017 #3


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    This is the idea behind the "bionic leaf" and other such devices that capture solar energy (e.g. through photovotaics) and use that energy to synthesize fuel:

    See also the associated publication in the journal, Science: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6290/1210
  5. Feb 17, 2017 #4
  6. Feb 18, 2017 #5
    I guess I had "mankind imitating Nature" in mind when I posed the question. We have photo-voltaic cells, wind turbines, melting salt at the top of a tower using mirrors, hydroelectric dams, ocean wave electricity generators, and the like. My perspective was applying Occam's Razor to this particular energy capture-release "system". But, all opinions are appreciated. Maybe imitating Nature is not the best route.
  7. Feb 18, 2017 #6
    You mean we could actually imitate the chemistry of photosynthesis?
    I think it's possible, but it would be a lot of work to produce a not very efficient result.
    It would probably be more productive to selectively breed real plants for highest photosynthetic ability.
  8. Feb 18, 2017 #7


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    Photosynthesis itself is not a very efficient means of capturing solar energy, so we are likely better off with artificial solutions rather than imitating nature. In an analysis of the issue in 2011, photovoltaics were already more efficient than natural photosynthesis:

    See the associated paper in the journal Science: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/332/6031/805
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