Tags: co2 | fuel | solar leaf | technology

CO2-to-Fuel Solar Leaf Technology Is Scientific Breakthrough

Image: CO2-to-Fuel Solar Leaf Technology Is Scientific Breakthrough
A breakthrough solar cell captures carbon dioxide and sunlight, producing burnable fuel. (Phys.org)

By    |   Tuesday, 02 Aug 2016 11:28 AM

Scientists have created an artificial "solar leaf" that uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into fuel.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago unveiled the "potentially game-changing" solar technology in a news release on Thursday and in the July 29 issue of the journal Science.

The solar leaf "essentially does the work of plants, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel, solving two crucial problems at once," the university said in the release. "A solar farm of such 'artificial leaves' could remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce energy-dense fuel efficiently."

Through reduction reaction, the photosynthetic solar cell reverses the process of fuel production, converting CO2 into burnable forms of carbon. The resulting synthesis gas, or syngas, could render fossil fuels obsolete, according to the release.

The solar leaf uses nanoflake tungsten diselenide as a catalyst to break the chemical bonds of CO2. It is 1,000 times faster and about 20 times cheaper than noble-metal catalysts, such as silver, which have been relied on by past engineers looking for ways to reduce CO2 levels.

The new technology could be used in large-scale solar farms, smaller applications, or even prove useful on Mars, according to the researchers.

"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," chemist Larry Curtiss, an author of the study, said in a news release from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy funded the research.

"The research team has combined this mechanistic insight with some clever electrochemical engineering to make significant progress in one of the grand-challenge areas of catalysis as related to energy conversion and the environment," said Robert McCabe, a program director at the National Science Foundation, according to Newsweek.

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Scientists have created an artificial "solar leaf" that uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into fuel.
co2, fuel, solar leaf, technology
314
2016-28-02
Tuesday, 02 Aug 2016 11:28 AM
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