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Solar fuels: how planes and cars could be powered by the sun

Solar energy is the world’s most plentiful and ubiquitous energy source, and researchers around the world are pursuing ways to convert sunlight into a useful form.

Most people are aware of solar photovoltaics that generate electricity and solar panels that produce hot water. But there is another thrust of solar research: turning sunlight into liquid fuels.

Research in solar-derived liquid fuels, or solar fuels, aims to make a range of products that are compatible with our energy infrastructure today, such as gasoline, jet fuel and hydrogen. The goal is to store sunlight in liquid form, conveniently overcoming the transient nature of sunlight. I am among the growing number of researchers focused on this field.

How can this be done? And what scientific challenges remain before one can fill up a car on solar-generated fuel?

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