I've been hearing a lot in the news about artificial photosynthesis processes that can use energy from sunlight to split water and produce synthetic fuel. Sounds pretty exciting, but being a non-physicist, I'm having some trouble separating the science from the hype. So I'm hoping somebody can set me straight.
- Does this technology exist in any form at anything beyond a proof-of-concept stage?
- Is it possible, at the present time, to produce renewable fuel in a sustainable/environmentally friendly way (i.e. one that doesn't require the use of scarce, toxic catalysts?) I've heard the term "solar fuel" tossed around, but I'm not clear on what that means: Hydrogen? Methanol? Something else?
- Would this offer any advantages over just using batteries/fuel cells to store the electricity produced by PV systems?