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Photosynthesis, nature's way of converting sunlight to fuel, happens all around us, from leaves on a tree to the smallest blade of grass. But finding a way to mimic the ability cheaply and efficiently has confounded engineers for decades.

Now researchers have taken a step toward this elusive feat, with a device that is even more efficient than natural photosynthesis and relies on low-cost, abundant materials.

Conventional solar cells produce electricity when a photovoltaic material is exposed to light. The new device goes a step further, using the resulting electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be stored and used to generate electricity via a fuel cell.

The new device is still in early laboratory development, and significant challenges remain before it can be commercialized.

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Category: Science