Scientists have developed a way to bring artificial leaves out of the lab and into a natural environment, where they can help clean the air.
USA (Next Media) – Scientists have developed a way to bring artificial leaves out of the lab and into a natural environment, where they can help clean the air.
According to Futurism, existing artificial leaves can mimic photosynthesis, but draw pure carbon dioxide from pressurized tanks in the lab. As such, they fail to be effective in the real world, where they need to be able to draw from more dilute sources.
UIC Today reports that researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago solved this problem by encasing the leaf in a semi-permeable membrane filled with water.
When warmed by sunlight, water evaporates out, and carbon dioxide is pulled in. An artificial photosystem then converts CO2 to carbon monoxide and oxygen.
Carbon monoxide can be used to create various synthetic fuels, including gasoline and methanol. The oxygen can either be collected or released into the environment.
The researchers calculate that 360 of the 1.7 meter long and 0.2 meter wide leaves could produce a half ton of carbon monoxide per day. The same number of leaves spread out in a 500 square meter area could also reduce CO2 levels within 100 meters by 10% in just one day.
The conceptual design for the leaves reportedly use readily available technology and materials, and will be 10 times more effective than natural leaves at converting CO2 to fuel.