Artificial leaves turn sunlight into fuel

Experts at the University of Cambridge have invented a device to create syngas, which is normally produced from fossil fuels.

Artificial leaves turn sunlight into fuel
Artificial leaves help in the production of eco-friendly fuels. Photo: Independent.

With the successful production of syngas by a new method, the team hopes to develop a sustainable liquid fuel that can replace gasoline or be used to produce many goods such as drugs, plastics, and fertilizers. , Independent reported today.

“You’ve probably never heard of syngas. But every day you’re using products that use it in the manufacturing process,” said Erwin Reisner, a chemistry professor at the University of Cambridge. . According to him, it is very important to make syngas in an environmentally friendly way.

The artificial leaf does not release any more CO2 into the atmosphere thanks to a combination of several materials and catalysts. The leaf mimics photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that helps the plant convert sunlight, CO2, and water into energy. It uses two light absorbers, similar to the light-collecting molecules of plants, combined with a cobalt-based catalyst. When placed in water, one uses a catalyst to produce oxygen, the second creates a chemical reaction that converts CO2 and water into CO and hydrogen, creating syngas.

The team also found that the artificial leaves remained effective when it was cloudy or rainy. “That means you’re not restricted to using this device in warm climates or during the summer. You can use it from dawn to dusk, anywhere in the world,” said Virgil. Andrei, lead author of the study, said.

“We aim to make substances that can be used as fuel, such as ethanol, in a sustainable way,” added Andrei. He thinks it’s very difficult to produce fuel from sunlight in just one step with the CO2 reduction reaction, but believes the team is on the right track and could create a device to do so in the future. .

Instead of producing syngas first and then converting it to liquid fuel, we want to make liquid fuel from CO2 and water in one step,” added Professor Reisner. He said that the need to use liquid fuel to help transport develop sustainably is huge.