Scientists Create “Artificial Leaf” That Sucks in Carbon Dioxide and Makes Fuel


Scientists believe that they’ve created a huge discovery with the conversion of carbon dioxide into liquid fuel by using sunlight.

The technology is very cheap to produce and the researchers state that it functions as a plant in the way that it uses photosynthesis. This is the reason why the invention is called the “artificial leaf”

The researchers hope that this invention can help with the battle against global warming. The emission of carbon dioxide on the planet reached high levels in recent years. Evidences of the changes can be seen with the unpredictable weather patterns and shifts of climate which covers a big number of regions to unlivable conditions.

However, this artificial leaf uses the cheap red powder called cuprous oxide, which can be found in large quantities in nature, to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen and methanol. Once the water in the solution evaporates, the substance can be used as a fuel.

The lead researcher and engineering professor of the University of Waterloo, Yimin Wu, made an interview with the Canadian press in which he stated that:

 “I tried to find a new way to mimic photosynthesis in nature, where leaves convert carbon dioxide and water with sunlight to produce glucose and oxygen. The motivation is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas, and hopefully reduce global warming and to provide sustainable energy.”

Additionally, Wu made a statement with the Independent:

“This technology has achieved the solar to fuel efficiency about 10 per cent. This is already larger than the natural photosynthesis (about one per cent). The next step is to partner with industry companies to scale it up with a system engineering of flow cell for the production of liquid fuels. More efficient artificial leaves can be developed along the lines with industry partners.”

The only problem is that it will take years before this product is commercialized by which point Wu thinks that steel, oil, and automotive companies will use the technology to lower the emissions of carbon.

The generation of power is done by a chemical reaction involving copper acetate, glucose, sodium hydroxide, and sodium dodecyl sulfate. All of these substances are added to water. After, the water is heated at a certain temperature which creates a reaction before carbon dioxide is blown through it and a beam of white light shines through the water.

Scientists are enthusiastic and want to increase the amount of ethanol that’s being produced by this process before introducing the technology on a large scale.

The professor added:

“I’m extremely excited about the potential of this discovery to change the game. Climate change is an urgent problem and we can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions while also creating an alternative fuel.”

Wu worked on this method since 2015 and a large part of his research was done while working at a federal laboratory in Illinois with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The latest research is part of a series of techniques formulated to convert CO2 emissions into usable fuel. Researchers hope that these discoveries can help against the rising levels of the greenhouse gas and tip the balance toward making no carbon emissions in the industry and human society.

In a press release in the University of Waterloo, Wu added that:

“I’m extremely excited about the potential of this discovery to change the game. Climate change is an urgent problem and we can help reduce CO2 emissions while also creating an alternative fuel.”


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