A Florida researcher has made a remarkable discovery that could be a sustainable energy game-changer: a synthetic material that mimics plants by using sunlight to produce oxygen.
The material, discovered by Jose L. Mendoza-Cortes, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Florida State University, is able to capture sunlight and convert water into oxygen and hydrogen. His findings were published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry.
If you can recall your high-school biology classes, plants use the energy of the sun to convert water and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen in a process called photosynthesis - a process that is essential for life on earth.
Mendoza-Cortes made his discovery when working with birnessite, also known as manganese oxide. His findings were reported in The Journal of Physical Chemistry.
"What we found is that when we go deeper into the material is that we can actually use it… for splitting water, for converting water into hydrogen and oxygen with the help of some electricity," he told CNBC in a phone interview.
Mendoza-Cortes explained that birnessite is made up of layers, and that when it consists of only one layer it is able to trap sunlight at very fast rates.