Efficient source of biofuel can be black forest — scientist

Forests of genetically modified trees with black leaves can significantly improve the absorption of carbon dioxide and become more efficient feedstock for biofuels, said Nobel laureate Hartmut Michel (Hartmut Michel), speaking on Monday with a lecture at the traditional meeting of Nobel laureates in the southern German town of Lindau.

Professor, Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society, Hartmut Michel won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1988 for research on the mechanism of photosynthesis.

His lecture in Lindau was devoted to the performance of one of the technology, "green energy" — the use of biofuels and biomass as a means of replacing fossil fuels, the combustion of which leads to climate change.

"Acknowledged that global warming, which we are seeing now is the result of growth in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane … It is necessary to switch from energy derived from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. High hopes for biofuels — bioethanol, biodiesel, biogas, "- said Michael.

Speaking about the mechanisms of photosynthesis, by which plants absorb carbon dioxide, and he noted that less than half of the solar energy reaching the earth can start photosynthesis reaction. In addition, the very mechanisms of photosynthetic reactions not allow plants to fully understand the resulting energy. Maximum theoretically achievable efficiency level — not above 11.9%.

However, in the process of turning plants into biofuels, most of this energy is lost. As a result, bio-fuels derived from plants grown in a certain area is not more than 0.2-0.4% of the solar energy that falls on this area.

He cited estimates that in order to grow plants that can meet the needs of Germany's fuel require 720,000 square kilometers — almost twice the area of the country (about 350,000 square kilometers).

Michael believes that the possible solutions may lie in the root of "modernization" of plants — using techniques of genetic modification can create plants with improved efficiency of photosynthesis, and can "absorb" radiation in the wider part of the solar spectrum.

"Perhaps this will be the trees with black leaves are more susceptible to the infrared study," — said Michael.

However, he stressed that it does not make the technology efficient enough to "block" method of direct conversion of sunlight into electricity.

"The effectiveness of modern solar cells up to 15%," — he said.

According to Nobel Prize winner, it would be wise to create four large solar power plants, for example, in the Sahara desert, the Kalahari, in Australia, in Mexico or in the Gobi Desert. Even with the losses in the transportation of energy, such power could provide energy to the world.

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