New Solar Cell Behaves Like Actual Plant

29-breakthroughThere’s an efficient new solar cell that can basically perform the job of any plant: convert carbon dioxide into fuel. Instead of a photovoltaic solar cell, the photosynthetic solar cell aims to utilize the excess carbon in the atmosphere and make fuel from that.

The characteristics and appearance of such solar cell is much like a plant in that it can be artificial leaves.

We can gladly thank the researchers at University of Illinois for constructing a plant that can convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuel at a low cost, shown in a July 29 report of Science.

We are used to thinking in terms of batteries and greenhouse gases that can never be properly dealt with.  The reversal of this harmful process by using a solar cell that can recycle excess carbon for fuel is pretty incredible. The more we make use of carbon, the better.

The actual differences between what a plant does versus synthetic leaves is partially explained by how plants produce fuel to begin with. Plants make sugar, but an artificial leaf would make hydrogen and carbon monoxide gases. These gases would be turned into hydrocarbon or other fuels via burning or conversion.

It took some time for researchers to find a catalyst that would essentially aid the carbon dioxide reduction, as well as deciding to abandon metals that are more expensive. Salehi-Khojin and his team ended up taking a look at transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs)

Khojin spoke of the process, “What we needed was a new family of chemicals with extraordinary properties,” he said.

The researchers found that nanoflake tungsten diselenide seemed to perform best as a catalyst, which can easily break down carbon dioxide bonds.

You have to wonder by how much carbon excess would be reduced after the employment of these artificial plants.


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