Artificial leaves that clean the air and produce fuel

Artificial leaves that purify the air by taking carbon dioxide out of it, while producing fuel in the process? American scientists are working on such a solution. Scientists claim that artificial leaves, according to their concept, can be up to 10 times more efficient in energy production than natural ones. In addition, they overcame a barrier that prevented similar devices from working outside the lab.

Scientists have long drawn inspiration from nature. This is also the case with artificial leaves, whichóre they mimic photosynthesis – a process in which theórym plants use water and carbon dioxide from the air to produce carbohydratesów using solar energy. But the solution developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago far surpasses previous próto mimic nature, primarily because it can work outside the lab.

Until now, such solutions required pure, compressed carbon dioxide fed from a reservoirów. That’s why it was difficult to go beyond the walls of the laboratory with the invention. Chicago engineers overcame this obstacle. The design solution they proposed means that the artificial leaves do not need to use CO2 fed under high pressure, they can take it straight from the air.

Artificial leaves improved by Chicago scientists use carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas – straight from the air. What’s more, the researchers say they are at least 10 times more efficient than natural leaves at converting carbon dioxide into fuel. In addition to producing fuel, the invention can contribute róAlso to reduce CO2 from the atmosphere.

– To date, all designs of artificial leaves, które were tested in the lab, they used carbon dioxide from a tank ofóin pressurized. However, to be effectively implemented in the real world, these devices need to be able to draw carbon dioxide from a much more dilute source ofósources, such as air and exhaust fumes, i.e., gases emitted by coal-fired power plants, said Meenesh Singh of the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of the authors of theóin the publication.

The lack of a source ofódeles of compressed carbon dioxide means that artificial leaves must have a different way ofób on the uptake and concentration of this gas from the air to trigger photosynthetic reactions. Singh along with wspóhe researchers proposed solving the problem by encasing the artificial leaf in a transparent capsule made of póof a water-filled permeable membrane. When water is heated by the sun’s rays, the water evaporates and comes out. When water enters through the membrane, the resulting pressure causes carbon dioxide to be sucked out of the air.

Inside the membrane is an artificial leaf, whichóry consists of a light absorber coated with catalysts, whichóre convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. The latter can be discharged and used as the basis for creating rótional synthetic fuels. The process produces róalso oxygen, whichóry róAlso can be accumulated or released into the surrounding environment.

– The artificial leaves in this specialized membrane can function externally like a natural leaf, Singh admitted. As the researchers calculated, 360 leaves, each 1.7 meters long and 0.2 meters wide, would produce nearly pół tons of carbon monoxide, whichóry móCould be used as the basis for synthetic fuels. 360 such artificial leaves would cover an area of 500 metersóin square. In this wayób could reduce carbon dioxide levels in an area up to 100 meters awayów by 10 percent in a single day.

– Our conceptual design uses readily available materials and technology. When combined, they can produce an artificial leaf, whichóry is ready for use outside the lab, where it can play a significant role in reducing gasóin greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” Singh assessed