New artificial “Leaf” technology turns sunlight and CO2 into Fuel

Global Business

The world’s demand for energy is projected to double by 2050 and triple by the end of the century, as populations rise and economies expand in developing countries. Scientists in Chicago have engineered a solar cell that could help provide a solution.


CCTV America’s Roza Kazan reports.
Follow Roza Kazan on Twitter @rozakazancctv

New artificial "Leaf" technology turns sunlight and CO2 into Fuel

New artificial "Leaf" technology turns sunlight and CO2 into Fuel

The world's demand for energy is projected to double by 2050 and triple by the end of the century, as populations rise and economies expand in developing countries. Scientists in Chicago have engineered a solar cell that could help provide a solution.CCTV America’s Roza Kazan reports.
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Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have created a system that mimics the natural photosynthesis process of a plant. 

The team developed a catalyst that allows it to absorb a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere and break it into a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen by using sunlight. That mix is called syngas and can be turned into transportation fuel.

The scientist leading the research says the motivation came from the world’s growing energy demand projected to triple by the end of the century.

The technology is carbon-neutral, meaning that even though cars that use this fuel will emit carbon, the artificial “leaf” will take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, thus producing no new emissions. Right now, one of the main strategies to replace oil and gas has focused on developing biofuels like corn-ethanol.

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois say the artificial “leaf” will go even further, but a more advanced prototype would need to be scaled up with infrastructure put in place.

And experts caution that the gas pump could be the biggest hurdle to adopting new energy sources in the U.S. As long gasoline prices remain relatively low, investing in new technologies may seem less attractive.

George Crabtree, senior scientist from Argonne National Laboratory says the fuel created by researchers must achieve price parity with gasoline.

But both his and assistant professor Salehi-Khojin from UIC’s team believe with 25 percent of carbon emissions in the United States coming from the transportation sector, the artificial “leaf” could bring on an energy revolution.