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!