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Keywords:

  • artificial photosynthesis;
  • electron transfer;
  • energy transfer;
  • photochemistry;
  • photosynthesis

Abstract

Energy is the most important issue of the 21st century. About 85 % of our energy comes from fossil fuels, a finite resource unevenly distributed beneath the Earth’s surface. Reserves of fossil fuels are progressively decreasing, and their continued use produces harmful effects such as pollution that threatens human health and greenhouse gases associated with global warming. Prompt global action to solve the energy crisis is therefore needed. To pursue such an action, we are urged to save energy and to use energy in more efficient ways, but we are also forced to find alternative energy sources, the most convenient of which is solar energy for several reasons. The sun continuously provides the Earth with a huge amount of energy, fairly distributed all over the world. Its enormous potential as a clean, abundant, and economical energy source, however, cannot be exploited unless it is converted into useful forms of energy. This Review starts with a brief description of the mechanism at the basis of the natural photosynthesis and, then, reports the results obtained so far in the field of photochemical conversion of solar energy. The “grand challenge” for chemists is to find a convenient means for artificial conversion of solar energy into fuels. If chemists succeed to create an artificial photosynthetic process, “… life and civilization will continue as long as the sun shines!”, as the Italian scientist Giacomo Ciamician forecast almost one hundred years ago.