16:49 02 August 2016
Scientists have made a scientific breakthrough that turns carbon dioxide and water into fuels. The system, which could someday power the world, uses ‘artificial leaves’ and the same foundation of photosynthesis by adding carbon dioxide to the water to make a hydrocarbon. The energy created is immediately stored, something that does not occur with conventional solar panels.
Daniel Nocera, from Harvard, said: 'I can definitely see a path forward now.
'There's still a lot to be done and you can always keep improving.
'But we can be way better than nature in taking sunlight and making fuels. I find that massively encouraging.'
Meanwhile, another scientist from the University of Illinois, Amin Salehi, found a different approach to the research. His team developed a catalyst called'nanoflake tungsten diselenide' that simultaneously converts carbon monoxide in the leaf. When combined with the hydrogen, the carbon monoxide produces a fuel called syngas.
Salehi said: 'The catalyst has 12,000 times better production than noble metals.
'It is 20 to 30 times cheaper too. We're talking about an improvement of 20-30,0000 times.'
He also believes that this could be used in conjunction with conventional power plants to make a fuel 'loop'.
'I envisage having a small solar farm next to a chemical and power plant, taking carbon dioxide out of the stream, injecting it into the leaf and producing fuels. If you make a loop of this it could be very efficient.'