A Leaf-Inspired Chemical Reactor

STEWART WILLS | December 27, 2016

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Chemists have long sought approaches that would allow them to leverage power from the sun in energy-intensive reactions such as those used in drug development. One problem, though, has been getting enough solar photons to the reactants of interest to do any good. A research team in the Netherlands, drawing on the complex natural example of tree leaves, has now put together recent advances in flow photochemistry and solar concentration to create a prototype artificial leaf that can act as a solar-powered, micro chemical reactor (Angew. Chem. Intl. Ed., doi: 10.1002/anie.201611101). The scientists found that the prototype could churn out chemical reactions at accelerated rates even on cloudy days with diffuse light. And they believe the technique could ultimately allow for the sustainable production of drugs in low-resource field settings, at the point of use.

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