“Artificial leaf” invented that produces sustainable gas

Researchers at the University of Cambridge used an ‘artificial leaf’ that needs only sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, to demonstrate that it could produce a widely-used gas that is currently produced from fossil fuels in a sustainable and simple way. It could eventually be used to develop a sustainable liquid fuel alternative to petrol.

The produced ‘syngas’ is used to produce for example fuels, pharmaceuticals, plastics or fertilisers. “You may not have heard of syngas itself but every day, you consume products that were created using it. Being able to produce it sustainably would be a critical step in closing the global carbon cycle and establishing a sustainable chemical and fuel industry,” said senior author Professor Erwin Reisner from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, who has worked seven years towards archieving this goal.

The device is inspired by photosynthesis. The leaf does not release any additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and still works efficiently on cloudy days.


Virgil Andrei, Bertrand Reuillard and Erwin Reisner. ‘Bias-free solar syngas production by integrating a molecular cobalt catalyst with perovskite-BiVO4 tandems.’ Nature Materials (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41563-019-0501-6

Image: Pixabay

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