Plants take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and through photosynthesis, create oxygen and energy. Researchers have designed various “artificial leaves” that absorb 10 times CO2 than the natural ones.
The process hopes that we could use the devices to fight rising greenhouse gas levels.But while some of their designs work well in the lab, they haven’t translated to the real world.
Now, 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.
According to UIC researcher Meenesh Singh, the problem with existing artificial leaves is that they draw pure CO2 from pressurized tanks in the lab, but in the real world, they need to be able to pull C02 from the air around them.
The artificial leaf inside the capsule would then convert the CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen. The former could be siphoned from the device and used to create synthetic fuels ranging from gasoline to methanol, while the latter could be released back into the environment or collected.
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.