IISc Artificial Leaves to Produce Fuel

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2017

These artificial leaves absorb carbon dioxide to produce fuel and release oxygen

To reduce carbon-dioxide in the environment, Researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have made artificial leaves that absorb carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

Artificial Photosynthesis

The quantum leave absorbs carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere and releases oxygen in the process, simulating artificial photosynthesis.

In their study, researchers claimed that this quantum leaf for artificial photosynthesis is 100 times more efficient than a natural leaf in absorbing carbon-dioxide. They also said that the leaf is made up of completely biocompatible, inexpensive and earth-abundant materials.

Fuel Production

During the process of artificial photosynthesis, it converts carbon-dioxide into bicarbonate form to ‘formate’ (derivative of formic acid) that may be used as fuel. While pursuing this process, the scientists turned to nano-crystals to develop the process of absorbing carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere. The quantum dots — semiconducting nano-crystals — made of specific materials, act as a catalyst in the reaction.

The researchers claim this to be a classic way to achieve two things at the same time as it reduces carbon-dioxide in nature to produce oxygen as well as can serve as a source of renewable energy.

“This is the most energy-efficient method to convert carbon dioxide into fuel and oxygen using only sunlight,” said one of the researchers. “While most plants convert less than one per cent of the available solar energy into chemical energy, the material developed by us can convert about 20 per cent of the incident solar energy into chemical energy in the form of fuel and oxygen”, he added.

The team also explained that people have tried to replicate the artificial photosynthesis in the past but the efficiency of this new quantum leaves is much more and is very close to the maximum efficiency that can possibly be achieved artificially.