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Photosynthetic capture of solar energy

wellsee / 2011-07-16
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Approximately 5.7 x 1024 J of solar energy are irradiated to the earth's surface on an annual basis. Plants and photosynthetic organisms utilize this solar energy in fixing large amounts of CO2 (2x1011 t = 3x1021 J/year), while amounts consumed by human beings are relatively small, (3 x 1020 J/year) (1), representing only 10% of the energy converted during photosynthesis.

 

Although large amounts of solar energy are irradiated to the earth's surface, the effective energy concentration (energy/unit area) of solar energy at any one point on the earth's surface is small - only about 1 kW/m2 at most, even at noon. Such low effective energy concentrations, limit the use of solar energy as a primary energy source, and elevate the costs associated with its accumulation and transmission.

 

Technologies for the utilization of low-density energy sources must be developed in order to facilitate the use of solar energy. Solar energy conversions through the use of photosynthetic microorganisms do not incorporate the use of complex systems or large quantities of factory manufactured products, and indeed have relatively minimal investment and resource requirements. Additionally, these technologies are largely dependent on the use of renewable resources, thereby generating minimal amounts of waste. Recent advances in biotechnology have made possible studies on the utilization of biological processes such as photosynthesis for energy production.

 

 

The use of natural energy involves the control of entropy. Prior to the industrial revolution, wood served as a major energy source. However, the industrial revolution gave rise to the widespread use of both coal and petroleum as energy sources. Since coal and petroleum were often produced at sites far from their consumption points, recuperation of their production costs involved mass production, thus precipitating the formation of an integrated industrial society. This integrated system soon reached its limits, making it necessary to consider discrete social systems that utilize delocalized abundant energy sources.

 

Integration is necessary in any system where energy, goods, and information are dispersed. Integration of systems involves the use of entropy-reducing processes. Application of mechanical methods to the integration of systems incorporates large amounts of energy expenditure. Existing problems cannot therefore be resolved without modification of existing social systems. Consequently, energy production technology must be reformed. Microorganisms have the ability to reduce entropy through energy utilization, and can potentially simplify the conversion and accumulation of solar energy and energy utilization over large areas.

 

Following the industrial revolution, energy-releasing techniques were developed. The development of techniques which control entropy are essential for human survival. To this end, there is a need for the development of industrial technology which makes use of biological principles in a sophisticated manner.

 

Photosynthetic capture of solar energy

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