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Scientists Create Leaf Which Can Convert CO2 into Fuel

Researchers have proposed a design solution that could bring artificial leaves out of the lab and into the environment. Their improved leaf, which would use carbon dioxide — a potent greenhouse gas — from the air, would be at least 10 times more efficient than natural leaves at converting carbon dioxide to fuel.

A team from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) think it’s found a way to bring artificial leaves out of the lab and into a natural environment — and their device could play a major role in cleaning up our air.

In a paper published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, the UIC team describes a new design intended to give artificial leaves the ability to pull C02 from the air around them.

“So far, all designs for artificial leaves that have been tested in the lab use carbon dioxide from pressurized tanks. In order to implement successfully in the real world, these devices need to be able to draw carbon dioxide from much more dilute sources, such as air and flue gas, which is the gas given off by coal-burning power plants,” said Meenesh Singh, assistant professor of chemical engineering in the UIC College of Engineering and corresponding author on the paper.

The researchers believe an artificial leaf built around their design would be 10 times more efficient at converting CO2 to fuel than natural leaves. They calculate that 360 of their artificial leaves, each 1.7 meters long and 0.2 meters wide, would generate about half a ton of CO daily.

Spread those leaves out over 500 square meters, and they could reduce the CO2 levels in the air within 100 meters of the space by 10 percent in just one day.

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