Scientists have developed an environmentally friendly fuel from solar energy that could revolutionize the automotive industry.
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The technology converts carbon dioxide and water into a liquid fuel which can then be fed into a vehicle’s engine.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have harnessed the power of photosynthesis to convert CO2, water and sunlight into multi-carbon fuels.
These fuels have a high energy density and can be easily stored or transported, according to the scientists whose work was published in Nature Energy.
“Shining sunlight on artificial leaves and obtaining liquid fuel from carbon dioxide and water is a chemical feat,” said Dr Motiar Rahaman, first author of the new study.
“Normally when you try to convert CO2 into another chemical you almost always get carbon monoxide or syngas, but here we were able to produce a convenient liquid fuel just by using energy of the sun,” he added to the university’s website.
The researchers managed to accomplish this feat by developing a catalyst based on copper and palladium, optimized to allow the artificial leaf to produce more complex chemicals.
Unlike fossil fuels, these solar fuels produce zero carbon emissions and are completely renewable.
Although the technology is still being tested in the lab, the researchers said their “artificial leaves” are an important step in the transition to a fossil fuel-based economy.
Further work will also be needed before the device can be mass-produced and produce large quantities of fuel.