From wind to solar energy, finding ways to harness renewable clean energy has been a trend in the scientific world. Now, scientists from Forschungszentrum Juelich have successfully created the first complete and compact artificial photosynthesis facility that could be used in practical applications outside the lab.

According to the study published in the journal Nature Communications, the design aims to offer an environmental solution in storing renewable energy.

One of the key problems in harnessing energy from the sun and wind is their inconsistent supply. The new facility uses photoelectrochemical water splitting, which, according to Science Daily, utilizes a combination of solar cells and electrolyser to convert solar power to hydrogen for storage.

The design offers a possibility of photoelectrochemical water splitting being tested in real-life applications. The facility has a surface area of 64 square centimeters and has a flexible design. Because it's compact and self-contained, the model could be larger (depending on the need) by just repeating the unit.

"This method permits greater efficiency in contrast to the concepts usually applied in laboratory experiments for scaling up," said Jan-Philipp Becker, one of the study's authors, said.

"This is one of the big advantages of the new design, which enables the two main components to be optimized separately: the photovoltaic part that produces electricity from solar energy and the electrochemical part that uses this electricity for water splitting," Becker added.

Apart from its flexibility, what makes the facility unique is that its made of low-cost, readily available materials. Currently, the said design is only running at 3.9 percent, but the researchers said "there's still plenty of room for improvement."

The new design is a big step in applying the technology tested in laboratories to reality, opening up other possible means to harness and store renewable energy in the future.

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