If you’re looking for innovation, look no further than the world’s greatest inventor — Mother Nature herself: Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have created a solar “leaf” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts it into an efficient, inexpensive fuel.
The cost? About as much of a gallon of gas to produce.
This “leaf” is one of a growing number of innovations that mimic the photosynthesis of plants to convert CO2 into energy, Christian Science Monitor reports.
The function of the solar cell mimics that of a plant leaf, but instead of converting carbon dioxide to sugar, the cell converts it to synthesis gas — a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This synthesis gas, or syngas, can be then burned for fuel, or converted into diesel or other hydrocarbon fuels.
“The new solar cell is not photovoltaic — it’s photosynthetic,” said Amin Salehi-Khojin, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight.”