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Nature's efficient energy production, storage, and data processing

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1 Author(s)
Oman, H. ; Emetitus

Converting the solar energy received on the surface of the Earth has not been practical with heat engines because of the low density of this energy. On a clear bright day in the summer, the sun generally delivers less than 80 W per square foot. Also, heat engines are prohibited from exceeding the Carnot-cycle efficiency limit. On the other hand, plants perform their energy conversion electrochemically, and, hence, are not limited by the Carnot-cycle. They use solar energy to produce useful fuels that range from corn-cobs and maple syrup to pitch and firewood. However, they have an extremely complicated process control that uses blue and red parts of the visible solar spectrum to extract hydrogen from water and carbon from carbon dioxide to make hydrocarbons. They do not need precious-metal catalysts; however they run complex data processing programs in which stored instructions control electrochemical reactions and also cause growth and production of needed products to occur when needed.

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:18 ,  Issue: 6 )