SCIENCE

Scientists Create Artificial Leaves That Convert CO2 To Fuel

  • Osvaldo Nunez , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Jul, 31, 2016, 06:22 PM
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Carbon Emissions
(Photo : Getty Images/ESA) Groundwater stores beneath the world's deserts could be trapping 'lost carbon' released by human activities.

One of the biggest problems scientists and policymakers are dealing with when it comes to the issue of climate change is the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted by human activity.

Dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to sources like fossil fuels in power plants, car engines and even petty products like hairspray. Although trees and other plants slowly absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, scientists are noting that it's not enough. We need to create our own solutions.

According to Science Daily, engineers at the University of Chicago have created a new type of solar cell that can convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into hydrocarbon fuel. Amin Salehi-Khojin compared it to "producing gasoline."

"Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight," noted Salehi-Khojin in a press statement.

The photosynthetic cell turns atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel. Its function is identical to that of a plant, but instead of turning fuel into sugar, it turns it into synthetic gas.

"The beauty of this work is it directly uses the energy of the sun. This doesn't need any electricity or external energy," said Mohammad Asadi, the study's lead author.

Larry Curtiss, an author of the study, expanded on the notion. "In photosynthesis, trees need energy from light, water and carbon dioxide in order to make their fuel; in our experiment, the ingredients are the same, but the product is different," said Curtiss.

"We burn so many different kinds of hydrocarbons -- like coal, oil or gasoline -- that finding an economical way to make chemical fuels more reusable with the help of sunlight might have a big impact," said Peter Zapol, an author of the study.

In the future, a solar farm could use thousands of solar cells in the form of artificial leaves that would produce fuel and clean the atmosphere.

The study was published in Science

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