#BBCNews: Creating fuel from thin air with artificial leaves

The device contains a panel which sits in a bath of water and carbon dioxide. Under sunlight the panel releases electrons which combine with the carbon dioxide and the protons in the water to make formic acid.

“These systems are like panels or sheets. It’s a very thin device – you can almost think of it as like a sheet of paper,” says Prof Reisner.

Perhaps the biggest step forward with the device is the fact that it is standalone. It doesn’t require an external power source, nor any top-ups of additional catalysts.

Despite the challenges artificial photosynthesis is attracting heavyweight investment. In the US, the Department of Energy recently announced funding of $100m (£76m) over five years.

The money is going to two separate projects: the Center for Hybrid Approaches in Solar Energy to Liquid Fuels (Chase) and the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (Lisa).

Chase, led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), is working on practical applications similar to the Cambridge device by developing systems that, like solar panels, use semiconductors to absorb light, and then use various different catalysts to convert the carbon dioxide to fuel.

Read more at: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-54390932

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