Artificial Photosynthesis CO2 to Value

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Artificial photosynthesis is a cutting-edge technology that aims to replicate the natural process of photosynthesis, using sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce valuable chemicals, fuels, and other materials. This innovative approach offers a potentially game-changing solution for addressing climate change by capturing and utilizing CO2 while simultaneously generating renewable energy.

Impact on climate action

Artificial Photosynthesis under the theme of C2V – CO2 to Value promises a significant impact on climate action. By mimicking natural photosynthesis to convert CO2 into valuable products like fuels or chemicals, it offers a sustainable solution to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and foster a circular carbon economy, advancing global climate goals.


Artificial photosynthesis involves mimicking the two key stages of natural photosynthesis:

  • Light Harvesting: Specialized materials, such as semiconductors or dye-sensitized solar cells, absorb sunlight and convert it into electrical energy.
  • CO2 Reduction: Catalysts, inspired by natural enzymes, utilize the electrical energy generated in the first stage to drive the reduction of CO2, converting it into various carbon-based products.

TRL : 3-5

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Bio-Inspired Catalysts: Researchers are developing catalysts based on the structure and function of natural enzymes found in photosynthetic organisms. These bio-inspired catalysts offer the potential for highly efficient and selective CO2 conversion.
  • Nanomaterials and Nanostructured Devices: Nanomaterials, such as quantum dots and nanowires, are being explored for their enhanced light absorption and catalytic properties, potentially boosting the efficiency of artificial photosynthesis.
  • Integration with Photoelectrochemical Cells (PECs): PECs combine light harvesting and CO2 reduction into a single device, offering a more integrated and potentially cost-effective approach to artificial photosynthesis.
  • Artificial Leaf Design: Scientists are developing artificial leaves that mimic the structure and function of natural leaves, aiming to create self-contained systems for efficient solar-driven CO2 conversion.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Biomimetic Catalyst Development
  • Nanomaterials for Enhanced Light Absorption
  • Bio-Inspired CO2 Conversion Catalysts
  • Quantum Dot Photocatalysis
  • Photoelectrochemical Cell Integration
  • Cost-Effective Artificial Photosynthesis
  • Self-Contained Artificial Leaf Systems
  • Renewable Energy Generation
  • Solar-Driven CO2 Conversion
  • Selective Carbon-Based Product Formation
  • Enhanced Efficiency Catalysts
  • Stability Improvement Strategies
  • Advanced Materials for Artificial Photosynthesis
  • Sustainable Chemical Production
  • Photocatalytic CO2 Conversion

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Hyperlight Energy:
    • Technology Focus: Hyperlight Energy likely specializes in artificial photosynthesis technology aimed at converting sunlight into storable fuels or energy. They may utilize advanced materials, catalysts, and reactor designs to mimic natural photosynthesis processes.
    • Uniqueness: Hyperlight Energy’s uniqueness may lie in their approach to artificial photosynthesis, potentially utilizing novel materials or innovative reactor designs to improve efficiency and scalability compared to traditional methods.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could be targeted towards industries seeking renewable energy sources, such as utilities, transportation, and off-grid applications in remote areas.
  • Liquid Light:
    • Technology Focus: Liquid Light is likely focused on leveraging artificial photosynthesis for the production of chemicals and fuels from carbon dioxide and water using renewable energy sources. Their technology may involve electrochemical processes and specialized catalysts.
    • Uniqueness: Liquid Light’s uniqueness may stem from their ability to produce a wide range of valuable chemicals and fuels using artificial photosynthesis, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional petrochemical processes.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments may include industries that rely heavily on petrochemicals, such as plastics, textiles, and pharmaceuticals, as well as those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint through sustainable manufacturing practices.
  • Sun Catalytix:
    • Technology Focus: Sun Catalytix likely focuses on developing catalysts and electrochemical systems for artificial photosynthesis, with a particular emphasis on solar energy conversion and storage. Their technology may involve innovative materials and reactor designs.
    • Uniqueness: Sun Catalytix’s uniqueness may lie in their expertise in catalyst development and system integration for artificial photosynthesis, potentially enabling cost-effective and scalable solutions for solar fuel production.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could be targeted towards industries seeking decentralized energy solutions, as well as applications in energy storage and grid balancing.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. California Institute of Technology (Caltech):
    • Technology Enhancements: Caltech researchers are pioneering the development of artificial photosynthesis systems that mimic natural photosynthesis to convert CO2 into valuable products such as fuels and chemicals. They are exploring novel catalysts and materials to enhance the efficiency and selectivity of CO2 reduction reactions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Caltech’s approach involves the integration of cutting-edge materials science, chemistry, and engineering principles to design efficient artificial photosynthesis systems. They are leveraging advances in nanotechnology and surface science to tailor catalysts for specific CO2 conversion pathways, enabling higher conversion rates and product yields.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Caltech has implications for renewable energy production, carbon capture, and sustainable chemical manufacturing. By developing cost-effective and scalable artificial photosynthesis technologies, companies can mitigate climate change, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and produce value-added chemicals and fuels from CO2 emissions.
  2. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Berkeley Lab are focused on developing next-generation artificial photosynthesis systems that utilize renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to drive CO2 conversion reactions. They are exploring innovative reactor designs and integration strategies to optimize the efficiency and scalability of CO2 utilization processes.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Berkeley Lab’s research integrates fundamental science with applied engineering to address key challenges in artificial photosynthesis, such as light capture, electron transfer, and product selectivity. They are collaborating with industry partners to scale up promising technologies and demonstrate their feasibility in real-world applications.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Berkeley Lab has potential applications in renewable fuels production, carbon sequestration, and sustainable agriculture. By harnessing the power of artificial photosynthesis, companies can transform CO2 emissions into valuable products such as hydrogen, methane, and ethanol, contributing to a more sustainable and circular economy.
  3. Harvard University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Harvard researchers are exploring novel materials and catalysts for enhancing the efficiency and selectivity of CO2 conversion reactions in artificial photosynthesis systems. They are leveraging techniques such as molecular design, surface engineering, and high-throughput screening to discover new catalysts with improved performance.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Harvard’s research combines expertise in chemistry, materials science, and photonics to develop innovative solutions for CO2 utilization. They are exploring unconventional approaches such as photoelectrochemical cells, molecular assemblies, and bio-inspired systems to achieve efficient CO2 conversion under ambient conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Harvard has potential applications in renewable energy storage, carbon capture, and sustainable manufacturing. By developing efficient and scalable artificial photosynthesis technologies, companies can convert CO2 emissions into valuable products such as syngas, methanol, and organic chemicals, thereby reducing environmental impact and creating new economic opportunities.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Artificial photosynthesis is still in its early stages of development, and large-scale commercial implementation is not yet a reality. However, significant research and development efforts are underway, and pilot projects are being developed to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology.