Cambridge University researchers have developed an artificial leaf that can produce fuels from CO2 and hydrogen. It could make a significant contribution in the fight against climate change.

As negative as recent climate change news has been, there is hope. Because we haven’t lost the fight against global warming yet. New ideas to solve the problem are flooding the market almost every day. So-called lumobags may delay climate change.

Wave power plants reliably and continuously feed green energy into the grid. The potential of these ideas is far from exhausted.

Researchers at Cambridge University have now developed artificial leaves that float on the water like water lilies. However, they not only look natural, but also generate sustainable fuels from water and sunlight. The inspiration for this again comes from nature, because the researchers copied parts of photosynthesis.

The technology could one day decarbonize shipping

In 2019, the scientists tested a first version of the leaves on their own campus river. At that time, the technology was still relatively impractical and unstable. However, progress has already been made. Synthesis gas was created from sunlight, CO2 and water. Industry uses this, for example, to manufacture various chemicals and pharmacy products.

The new version of the blade represents a real step forward. It is inexpensive, lightweight and does not take up space on land. Shipping in particular would benefit from broad scaling. Because the fuels produced by the leaf may help decarbonize the industry.

Artificial leaf creates fuels from water and C2

In ports, on busy waterways or on the high seas, the leaf can convert CO2 and other waste products into valuable gas. This is made possible by metal oxides that contain a perovskite cell. The researchers placed this construction on flexible metal and plastic foils. As with solar systems, perovskite also has great potential here.

In addition, two application scenarios are possible: the blade converts water into hydrogen and oxygen or it produces the synthesis gas mentioned above from CO2. In one way or another, technology may have a significant impact in the fight against climate change in the near future.

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