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Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), in collaboartion with the Argonne National Laboratory, have developed an "artificial leaf" solar cell that converts the atmopshere's carbon dioxide into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy.

Solar-powered leaf converts carbon dioxide into fuel


Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Saturday, August 6, 2016, 5:08 PM - Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), in collaboartion with the Argonne National Laboratory, have developed an "artificial leaf" solar cell that converts the atmopshere's carbon dioxide into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy.

Typically, solar cells convert sunlight to electricity that is stored in heavy batteries.


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The new "solar-powered leaf" is commended for its efficiency and affordability. It imitates a plant's natural process of photosynthesis, but instead of using the sun to convert CO2 and water into glucose, it converts carbon dioxide into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen called syngas.

Syngas is a source of fuel consisting of 50 per cent of the energy of natural gas. It can be burned or converted into other hydrocarbon fuels.

WATCH: Learn more about the science behind the solar-powered leaf, below:

"Other artificial leaves have been used for the watersplitting to produce hyrogen. But this artificial leaf really mimics the real photosynthesis process, capture[s] the CO2, and convert[s] it to the hydrocarbons," Dr. Amin Salehi-Khojin, the study's senior author and assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC.


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At the moment the plant is producing gas, Salehi-Khojin says. He and his team are working to engineer a catalyst to produce sugar, diesel, and gas directly from the artificial leaf system.

"At UIC I envision to make a smaller solar park next to the chemical power plants," Salehi-Khojin adds. "[T]hen we can use the CO2 from the exhaust gas stream from the plants, and then use it in the solar park and the artificial leaf system."

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SOURCE: UIC News Center

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