Artificial Photosynthesis: Background information when reading Solar

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Solar

by Ian McEwan

Solar by Ian McEwan
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Artificial Photosynthesis

Print Review

Much of the science upon which Beard stakes his reputation (even though he may have gleaned it unethically) deals with the concept of artificial photosynthesis, a real proposed solution to energy consumption problems, one that Beard himself explains eloquently and convincingly in a speech to a group of businesspeople and investors. When he first encounters the idea, Beard calls it "brilliant or insane," but regardless of his ambivalence, artificial photosynthesis is a proposal that is very much under discussion as one of the potential answers to the mounting questions about where humans will draw their energy in years to come.

Essentially, artificial photosynthesis does what plants have been doing for the last 2.8 billion years or so: using the energy from the sun to convert compounds from one form to another. Plants use the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar (with extra oxygen left over). Artificial photosynthesis uses the energy from the sun to break up water into oxygen and energy in the form of hydrogen, which can then be used in fuel cells to create electricity or simply utilized as a liquid fuel itself, as explained in the video below. The process has the potential to be both efficient and relatively cheap and, as Beard himself points out in the novel, solar energy is perhaps the ultimate renewable resource, one that won’t be exhausted until the Earth itself is in its final days. Currently, scientists at MIT and elsewhere are, like Beard, working to convince business and industry leaders that artificial photosynthesis could be a viable solution to what seems, at times, like a hopeless dilemma.

In this video, MIT professor Daniel Nocera demonstrates the enormous potential of the process he has been working on for 25 years. For more see Sun Catalytix.

Note: Those who remember their high school biology may recollect that photosynthesis is the process of converting carbon dioxide and water into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from the sun. As such the process described in the above video - splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen - is not technically 'photosynthesis' but photolysis - which is one of the stages of photosynthesis.

Article by Norah Piehl

This article was originally published in May 2010, and has been updated for the March 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Priestdaddy
    Priestdaddy
    by Patricia Lockwood
    Patricia Lockwood is a poet and the daughter of Greg Lockwood, a Catholic priest. While Catholic ...
  • Book Jacket: Before We Sleep
    Before We Sleep
    by Jeffrey Lent
    Katey Snow, aged seventeen, leaves home one night. "There was a void within her and one that could ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Weight of Ink
    by Rachel Kadish

    An intellectual, suspenseful, and entertaining page-turner.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.