Science Made Simple: What Are Solar Fuels?

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Solar fuels are fuels made from common substances like water and carbon dioxide using the energy of sunlight. There is vast energy in sunlight striking the earth, but it is time-varying and dispersed, making it challenging to harness sunlight for practical use. We have successfully tapped solar energy to make electricity but aren’t yet able to efficiently make liquid fuels from it. Solar fuels could be an abundant supply of sustainable, storable, and portable energy.

Solar fuels would diversify our fuel supply and increase the sustainability of our overall energy system. They would also use existing fuel infrastructure for a huge range of applications. These fuels could be stored for hours, days, months, or longer. Solar fuels could be transported anywhere, making them a valuable and flexible resource for a more reliable electric power grid.

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