Stanford University materials scientist Paul McIntyre has developed major advances in underwater solar cells, taking his 2011 innovation that made the cells much more corrosion-resistant and now increasing the power the cells can generate despite being underwater. The solar cells will be used to facilitate a process called artificial photosynthesis. The cells will take the energy they produce and use it to mix water with carbon dioxide, creating fuels like natural gas.
A new study published by McIntyre, Andrew G. Scheuermann and others in Nature explains that the new underwater solar cells set a record for achieved photovoltages underwater. The researchers identified a photovoltage loss point in current models and eliminated it. Now the electricity generated is powerful enough to break the chemical bonds of H2O and CO2 and remix the elements to produce oxygen and natural methane gas — CH4. Other uses for the breakthough underwater solar cells are being explored. Scheuermann told Stanford that with the corrosion protection and energy increase that “within five years, we will have complete artificial photosynthesis systems that convert greenhouse gases into fuel.”