Technology 2 min read

New Artificial Leaves Design May Purify The Planet

If scalable, this could be a significant break in the struggle against rising CO2 emissions | Image via Meenesh Singh | UIC

If scalable, this could be a significant break in the struggle against rising CO2 emissions | Image via Meenesh Singh | UIC

Plants are natural purifiers. They take in the carbon dioxide in the air and create oxygen and energy through photosynthesis.

Since CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas, it’s not surprising that researchers want to mimic the purifying process with artificial leaves. Some teams previously managed to replicate this process – except for one minor issue; it only works in the lab.

Now, however, Researchers at the University of Illinois recently proposed a simple design change that could bring artificial leaves into our environment. Even better, the improved leaf would be ten times more efficient at absorbing CO2 than the natural ones.

Needless to say that this device could play a significant role in cleaning up our planet’s air.

How the New Artificial Leaf Design Works

According to co-author Meenesh Singh, the current artificial leaves are only capable of drawing CO2 from pressurized tanks in the lab. Even the most advanced human-made leaf still requires pure, pressurized carbon dioxide from tanks for photosynthesis.

As such, the leaves can’t pull carbon dioxide from the air around them as required in the real world. That’s why Singh and his colleagues proposed a new artificial leaf designed to address this issue.

As described in the paper published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, a regular artificial leaf should be placed in a water-filled capsule made from a semi-permeable membrane,

As sunlight hits the leaf, the water warms up and evaporates through the membrane. At the same time, the capsule absorbs the CO2 for the leaf to convert to carbon monoxide and oxygen.

Singh said in a press release;

“By enveloping traditional artificial leaf technology inside this specialized membrane, the whole unit can function outside, like a natural leaf.”

Artificial Leaves for a Cleaner Atmosphere

With the new design, artificial leaves should be ten times more efficient at converting carbon dioxide to fuel than natural leaves.

According to calculations, 360 artificial leaves, each with a length and width of 1.7 and 0.2 meters respectively would generate about half a ton of CO daily.

When you spread those leaves across 500 square meters, the CO2 level in the air within 100 meters of the area would reduce by 10 percent within a day.

Read More: Milestone: Australia Chooses Climate Change Over Coal

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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