Scientists have made a stunning development that could change the way we fill up at the pump.
Scientists have again looked to nature for inspiration in creating a technology that could completely change the face of the energy industry as we know it. According to a report from Engadget, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed an all-new solar cell that mimics the process of photosynthesis, which allows plants to use sunlight to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into useable energy. The breakthrough system draws in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts it to a synthetic fuel that can be burned to power vehicles.
It sounds unbelievable, but researchers believe the technology could help bring us to a point where there are no net carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere – that is, the fuel created using atmospheric CO2 offsets the emissions from burning the same fuel. By creating a new fuel out of the byproduct of an old fuel, researchers hope to address one of the most pressing problems of our generation.
Scientists created an artificial leaf containing a duo of solar cells that carry out a much more complicated version of the electrolysis process involved with photosynthesis. The cells use sunlight to catalyze a reaction with rare compounds including nanoflake tungsten diselenide. The reaction produces synthetic gas that can be used directly by a modified vehicle, or it can be converted into diesel fuel.
Scientists have been working on similar systems for quite a while, but few have reached the level of efficiency of the UIC team. The biggest barrier to making a technology like this a reality is ultimately cost. If the technology proves to be cheaper to use than conventional fossil fuel technology, we could be on the verge of an all-out energy revolution. Even if the fuel produced by these cells is expensive, however, it represents a huge step forward in our understanding of energy and how to provide it to people on a large and sustainable scale.