It could happen
Enter chemist Daniel Nocera. His goal: create a renewable energy source by using sunlight to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen.
From the AP (via Wired):
There is a beautiful model for this: photosynthesis. Sunlight kickstarts a reaction in which leaves break down water and carbon dioxide and turn them into oxygen and sugar, which plants use for fuel.
But plants developed this process over billions of years, and even so, it’s technically not that efficient. Nocera and other scientists are trying to replicate that — and perhaps improve on it — in decades.
Here is where he is today:
Nocera has performed the reaction with acidic solutions, but not water yet. The catalyst he used was a compound that included the expensive metal rhodium. To be a practical energy solution, it will have to be made from inexpensive elements like iron, nickel or cobalt.
Good luck Daniel!