During the first quarter of this century, a number of attempts were made to duplicate the photosynthetic reaction in aqueous solutions or slurries of inorganic or simple organic photosensitizers. Such attempts (Spoehr) have been generally abandoned and the scattered, early reports of experimental successes are discredited. It is most improbable that a homogeneous solution will ever be devised which will be capable, with sensible efficiency, of using visible light to bring about the reduction of carbon dioxide by water, eliminating oxygen. For such a process to succeed, either the energy of four or more photons must be accumulated by a sensitizer molecule or else a series of fairly stable reaction intermediates must be formed. No analog of the first process, the accumulation of energy, has been reported in the extensive literature of the photochemistry of gaseous and liquid solutions, nor is such a process consistent with the known spectrographic properties of atoms or molecules. Natural photosynthesis undoubtedly involves the formation and reactions of a series of intermediates, but occurs in a spatially organized system containing a number of enzymes and carriers. While it is possible that such a chain of reactions could occur in a homogeneous system; if by some miracle it were discovered, it is almost certain that the system would be so complex chemically that it would be about as difficult to study as its biological counterpart.


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