About Solar Fuels

Energy and climate change are some of the most important challenges facing society. Sunlight is plentiful, but how can we store the Sun’s energy for use when the Sun doesn’t shine? One way is to use sunlight to drive chemical reactions that make fuels, storing solar energy in the form of chemical bonds.  Most simply, we can use sunlight to split water to make hydrogen – a clean, renewable fuel. We can also use sunlight to turn CO2 (a greenhouse gas) into useful fuels. The overall research challenge is to develop technologies that efficiently convert solar energy into ‘solar fuels’ (for example hydrogen or methanol). ‘Solar fuels’ could reduce net CO2 emissions by displacing fossil fuels currently used for transportation and in industrial processes such as fertiliser manufacture.

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Royal Society Of Chemistry- www.rsc.org

Plants have been using photosynthesis to directly convert sunlight to fuels for millions of years. But the big disadvantages of biofuels are the relatively low solar to biomass energy conversion efficiencies of natural photosynthesis, and the restricted availability of suitable land which will not compete with food production.  So the rapidly expanding research field of artificial photosynthesis, including solar fuels, is attracting extensive interest.


The Solar Fuels Network is focused primarily on direct solar driven fuel synthesis  (for example illustrated in this flow diagram as water photolysis and photochemical reduction of carbon dioxide), as well as considering the wider context of the overall challenge of renewable fuel synthesis.

Find out more about Solar Fuels and Artificial Photosynthesis on our Education page!  There are activity sheets to download and links to videos about solar fuels.