One of the greatest scientists ever is Nature itself, as it has been routinely tweaking processes and materials to arrive at optimal states. In many cases, humanity has tried to replicate Nature's work, but generally, Nature is still superior. One example of this is photosynthesis, which has been proving difficult to replicate, but researchers at Boston College have made an important discovery.
Photosynthesis is a process that allows an organism to use the energy of sunlight to produce oxygen gas or organic molecules. The goal for artificial photosynthesis is to create a system to absorb and store the absorbed energy in chemical bonds. The catch is that the voltages needed to initiate the electrochemical reactions are too high for the system to be efficient, without using prohibitively expensive materials. The Boston researchers though have successfully created a photoanode that has cut this energy requirement in half, to 0.6 volts, which is just two-tenths above the necessary voltage.
Naturally more work has to be done, to reduce the energy requirement further as well as to produce a comparable photocathode. Currently the Boston researchers are considering partnering with other teams, that have had success in the field, and perhaps close the gap sooner.
Source: Boston College via EurekAlert!