Engineers from the University of Chicago have built a new type of solar cell that would convert atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to fuel by using the sun’s energy.
The system as described in a recent science paper can accurately turn CO2 into fuel at a cost that is relatively the same as the cost to produce gasoline.
“Rather than producing energy in a divergent one-way route from rich fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, scientists can now reverse the process, recycling atmospheric carbon into fuel with the use of just sunlight,” according to Amin Salehi-Khojin, one of the engineers in a press statement.
To make the system work, the team used a photosynthetic cell rather than the conventional photovoltaic cell. By making the change, the solar array becomes an “artificial leaf” converting solar energy into fuel vs. electricity. However, instead of producing sugars as a plant does, it produces synthetic gas in the form of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
They expect that in the near future, solar farms making up of thousands of “artificial leaves” could lead to a reduction in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere during fuel production. Can you envision a world without drilling for oil? Could this be the end of fracking altogether?