A group of scientists hailing from the University of Cambridge has managed to create an artificial leaf that might prove to be a key factor in providing cleaner petrol in the future. As of right now, the gas that we utilize is being created by fossil fuels.
However, with the focus being on sustainability and the environment ring loud and clear, alternatives must be found and used. This artificial leaf that has been created by the scientists might be one answer to this problem. The study has been published in Natura Materials.
The artificial leaf only needs sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water for creating the clean gas that has been named syngas. The process is simple and quite sustainable. Despite the fact that it requires sunlight, unlike solar panels, this artificial leaf can carry out its functions on cloudy days as well. Also, unlike the existing industrial processes that are being utilized for the creation of syngas, that create carbon dioxide and release it into the atmosphere, this leaf does not.
Syngas has a variety of uses. It can create commodities, including fuel, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and fertilizers. Erwin Reisner is the senior author of the study from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, and said, ‘you may not have heard of syngas itself, but every day, you consume products that were created using it. Being able to produce it sustainably would be a critical step in closing the global carbon cycle and establishing a sustainable chemical and fuel industry.’
The team of scientists took inspiration from nature and made a replica of photosynthesis. Plants rely on this process for transforming carbon dioxide into food via sunlight. The process is almost the same for the artificial leaf, as well. The leaf comes with two light absorbers that are combined using a catalyst that is made from cobalt.
After being immersed in water, one of the light absorbers relies on the catalyst for creating oxygen, and the other absorber is used for reducing carbon dioxide and water into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Virgil Andrei, who is also the first author of the study from the University of Cambridge Ph.D. student, said, ‘This means you are not limited to using this technology just in warm countries, or only operating the process during the summer months. You could use it from dawn until dusk, anywhere in the world.’
Reisner further said, ‘There is a major demand for liquid fuels to power heavy transport, shipping, and aviation sustainably.’