12
   

Solar Powered Trees

 
 
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 07:58 am
You know what I've always wondered, why solar panels aren't made to convert sunlight (using a photosynthesis process) into sugars (carbons) and oxygen? .

We could replace the lost trees of the rainforest by covering the deserts with artificial solar-powered trees. (Or we could umbrella all the cities, if we wanted.)

Joe(what do you think?)Nation
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Type: Question • Score: 12 • Views: 2,859 • Replies: 41

 
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 08:20 am
@Joe Nation,
My best guess is that, since the photosynthesis process is incredibly complex chemically, it cannot yet be replicated industrially. It is still easier to just plant trees. Another drawback would be the low efficiency of photosynthesis (amount of chemical energy produced / solar energy consumed) estimated at 1%. It's an interesting idea nevertheless.
Ragman
 
  2  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 08:31 am
@Joe Nation,
0 Replies
 
Quehoniaomath
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 08:53 am
Just use free energy or better called over unity energy.!

In reality there is NO shortage of energy!

read Tesla and his works.
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 10:36 am
@Olivier5,
Interesting.
Where did you get the one percent figure?

joe(Q~It's not about the lack of energy.)Nation
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 11:11 am
@Joe Nation,
From school.

Comparatively, photovoltaic cells have a yield of 5 to 10% or thereabout, but they do only electric current. Photosynthesis converts photons into electric charges PLUS transforms electric charges into stable chemical bounds i.e. chemical energy (food or fuel if you wish) which is easier to store than electricity. So growing food or fuel or timber is still a pretty efficient way to capture solar energy on wide areas.
CalamityJane
 
  3  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 11:21 am
@Joe Nation,
Much better: there will be solar roadways!

http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml

0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 11:40 am
@Olivier5,
Actually the figure which is more correct is 20%:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell_efficiency
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 12:44 pm
@Ragman,
Right, they're making progress.
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  2  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 02:29 pm
@Ragman,
Yeah, they are making progress.
Thanks, Ragman.
Oliver5, I appreciate your input.

When I first researched solar power around 2004, to see which was the better investment ~a roof deck or a solar array to be used to power our building's hall light and maybe its elevator, the roof deck won hands down.

Now, I'm not so sure but I want to do some reading. I'm wondering if it wouldn't be possible to generate oxygen while removing excess CO2 from the air by way of a solar collector/processor. If we could get it to mimic chlorophyll....who knows?

We already aren't re-planting trees as fast as we are cutting them down. Once we do cut them down the land is used for other purposes not tree growing. With oxy-producers, we could put them anywhere. Scrub any city's air of Carbon Monoxide too.

Someone steal this idea.

Joe(I'm okay with that)Nation
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 03:00 pm
@Joe Nation,
Since trees already do this, maybe it would be better to genetically modify them to grow power sockets at their base. Maybe we can genetically "convince" them to stop growing after 20 years and just start producing electricity. Smile
0 Replies
 
georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2014 03:27 pm
@Joe Nation,
Joe Nation wrote:

You know what I've always wondered, why solar panels aren't made to convert sunlight (using a photosynthesis process) into sugars (carbons) and oxygen? .

We could replace the lost trees of the rainforest by covering the deserts with artificial solar-powered trees. (Or we could umbrella all the cities, if we wanted.)

Joe(what do you think?)Nation


I think you should be congratulated for your insight. This is actually a new branch of research in solar technology. New materials and solutions at several basic levels must be found, and the effort is currently underway at several universities and laboratories. Practical results are likely several decades away, but the focus of the effort is to use a photosynthesis-like energy & chemical process to produce free hydrogen from sunlight and air.

Hydrogen is a clean burning fuel that can be used directly in all types of turbine or internal combustion engines with only slight modificantions from conventional designs. With hydrogen fuel, the exhaust gas would simply be water vapor. (ironically water vapor is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, however, we could use some more rain out here in California). There has long been interest in hydrogen as a fuel, but because free hydrogen isn't found in nature, and its chemical bonds with water and other elements are so strong, it takes as much or more energy to produce it conventionally as is released in its combustion. A new solar-powered photosynthesis technology would solve that problem, and likely at significantly reduced cost.

In addition hydrogen can be used in improved fuel cells that produce electrical energy without combustion at much lower temperatures than current fuel cells using methane - a feature that currently prevents the practical application of this emission-free technology.

Solar production of hydrogen would yield a widely useful fuel at about the same cost per energy unit as current fossil fuels and 1/3rd the cost of photovoltaic solar panels. It would give us a new source of clean energy without the prohibitave cost penalties of current "clean" sources.

Good insight on your part!
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2014 05:44 am
@georgeob1,
The "photosynthetic PV cells" are not so far off. The Germans seem to be working on these. Ive been interested in the "Perovskite family of solar cells" They are very cheap to make and install and they've already reached the 20% total efficiency mark (some "ultrapure" silica sheet cells hve reached 50%).
In each case, there is a need for a gret semiconductor frame structure and, of all things, thieve chosen Titanium.
Jut as Im retiring, my indespensibility to the market grows.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2014 06:02 am
@Joe Nation,
What's wrong with natural trees? They already convert sunlight into sugars which can then be used for energy. You just have to plant them.

Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2014 07:23 am
@maxdancona,
Trees are good, I like them. Some of my best friends are trees, but I'm wondering if we can't build a more efficient method of scrubbing CO2 from the air while producing O2.

This idea started in my head when I saw an article about a kid who thought that rather then putting solar panels in nice neat rows they should be arrayed as if they were leaves of a trees. Simple idea... the panels caught more sunlight as the day proceeded without having to have any motors to re-position them as the sun moved.
Cool, huh.... ?
But those were solar panels designed to create heat/energy to make electricity.

This idea really got going in my head when I visited with not one, not two, but three households in Nova Scotia who were going completely off the grid. (Hard to create heat for your home in Nova Scotia just with the sun, but it's doable today)
Then, reading again about the rainforests being removed and not replaced and the effect that will have on our atmosphere....I decided (heh) we should build trees, whole forests of them to make oxygen and to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Joe(it'll happen)Nation
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2014 07:24 am
@farmerman,
I'm going to look up Perovskite.

Thanks, FM.

Joe(you'll be called back in)Nation
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2014 08:13 am
@Joe Nation,
There are a couple of issues here. I am sure we all agree that we should be planting more real trees and stopping the rain forests from being removed.

Just to nitpick, I am not sure what the word "efficient" means. Does this measure CO2 per time, or per space?

As far as energy, you need to get cost down. By cost I mean both economic costs, and environmental cost (i.e. net carbon in the atmosphere). These costs include conversion to usable fuel and transportation. It seems obvious to me that the "best" fuel is the one with the lowest economic and environmental cost.

I have heard that some people are working on using algae to produce bio-fuel. I wonder how this compares to the artificial photosynthesis. Google didn't give me a definitive answer in the short time I took to search.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2014 09:36 am
@maxdancona,
the biofuel Ive seen that uses algae, has to do with creating biodiesel from algae "fatty acids". You convert the fatty acid to a complex ester and separate the glycerine . The ester is the diesel and the glycerine has lots of uses elsewhere.

The algae are grown in large reactors that bathe in the sun and are cared for by some "algae farmer" its kinda like yeast.
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Nov, 2014 07:37 pm
@farmerman,
I haven't been clear. My objective is not to produce energy but to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and end up with free O2.

Plants do that, we should be able to make an artificial plant.

(ten years from now....
"Happy Birthday !"
"What lovely roses!"
"Yes, And they are completely artificial !"
"Really? Oh, THANK YOU, " Such a thoughtful gift."
"Even if they are not in water, they are producing oxygen from the air."
"I feel better already."

Joe(wanna take a nap?)Nation
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Nov, 2014 05:18 am
@Joe Nation,
you can do that with a chemical process . Itd be like running a fuel cell in reverse where you don't use O to create energy, yu use energy to create O2 from Co2. The process isn't perfects because you don't have a complete solid oxide electrolysis reaction (We are always left with some amount of Carbon MONOXIDE). But the O2 is much greater so that the CO isn't toxic.
I know they will be testing a system that uses a solid oxide electrolyisis system called MOOXIE in an upcoming Mars mission. They will store the OS to see how well the system wprks (Itll use a solar array to generate the energy (Kinda what a leaf does)

If they grew plant on Mars, theyd have to grow em in huge greenhouses with a lotta WILT_PRUF or some means to up the free moisture in the air.
The MOXIE system is a lot more compartmentalized and I easily tweaked by engineers.

Im sure some dude is working on an artificial zombie-plant, but engineers like units and gizmos that can be futzed with and replaced rather than messing with biology.

I found a schematic of MOXIE but I couldn't size it (or else I just don't know how to size this type of graphic)

    http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--A1j8q71P--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/vwipudqsexnrqpavydtw.png
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