Science 2 min read

New Artificial Photosynthesis Method can Turn CO2 Into Liquid Fuel

Taking inspiration from the natural world, scientists have developed a new method of artificial photosynthesis that can store solar energy for prolonged periods of time.

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Pixabay

Scientists at the University of Illinois developed a new method to produce fuel using carbon dioxide. In their paper published in Nature Communications, the team described using artificial photosynthesis to convert CO2 into propane, a breakthrough that pushes green energy technology a step closer to utilizing carbon emissions in storing solar energy.

Prashant Jain, a chemist from the University of Illinois, explained:

“The goal here is to produce complex, liquefiable hydrocarbons from excess CO2 and other sustainable resources such as sunlight. Liquid fuels are ideal because they are easier, safer, and more economical to transport than gas.”

The team’s method took inspiration from the process that plants use to create chemical reactions through sunlight to split CO2 and water, allowing them to create and store solar energy in the form of energy-rich glucose.

The Artificial Photosynthesis

The artificial photosynthesis works by using the green light part of the visible light spectrum and a catalyst made of electron-rich gold nanoparticles to turn CO2 and water into fuel.

The catalyst acts as the chlorophyll, which absorbs the green light and transfers the electrons and protons required to trigger the chemical reactions between the CO2 and water.

The team used gold nanoparticles as they absorb light efficiently, do not degrade like other metals, and their surfaces interact well with CO2 molecules.

Jain added:

“There are other, more unconventional potential uses from the hydrocarbons created from this process. They could be used to power fuel cells for producing electrical current and voltage. There are labs across the world trying to figure out how the hydrocarbon-to-electricity conversion can be conducted efficiently.”

While the artificial photosynthesis developed by Jain and his team is a breakthrough, they admit that it is still nowhere near as efficient as natural photosynthesis.

“We need to learn how to tune the catalyst to increase the efficiency of the chemical reactions. Then we can start the hard work of determining how to go about scaling up the process. And, like any unconventional energy technology, there will be many economic feasibility questions to be answered, as well.”

Read More: Scientists To Reduce Carbon Emissions By Turning CO2 Into Basalt Rock

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Rechelle is an SEO content producer, technical writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with family and friends.

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