Artificial leaf water “production capacity”

Artificial leaves floating on the River of Swords. Image credit: V Andrei

An artificial leaf that uses sunlight to produce “fuel” is lightweight enough to float on the water. The research results were recently published in Nature.

Researchers have long tried to simulate the photosynthesis of plants through a synthetic process. This synthesis process can produce fuel from carbon dioxide, water and sunlight.

However, existing technologies are either inefficient or battery units are too bulky to produce renewable energy only on land. And land is undersupplied.

To that end, Erwin Reisner and colleagues at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have developed a solar fuel cell made of perovskite, a crystal that can capture energy from sunlight. Batteries produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide “bubbles” that can be mixed together to make a fuel called “syngas.”

“This is the first solar fuel and the first time clean fuel has been produced on water.” Reisner said shifting renewable energy production from land to open water means reducing land use.

The new battery unit is a square about 10 cm wide and 1 mm thick. In actual tests, it produces hydrogen at an efficiency of 0.58% and carbon monoxide at 0.0053%. Reisner said that if calculated in grams, its efficiency is similar to current solar fuel technology, even comparable to some factories.

However, there are still many problems in the production process of the new battery, and it can only be used as a commercial equipment concept at present. (Source: China Science Daily Wang Fang)

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