Artificial Photosynthesis May Alleviate Climate Change By Transforming Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide Into Liquid Fuel

Researchers produced fuel through artificial photosynthesis. The process involves the use of water, visible light, and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide known to contribute to global warming.  ( Pixabay )

Climate change is largely blamed on increased concentration of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels for heat, electricity, and transportation.

Artificial Photosynthesis May Help Repurpose Carbon Dioxide

However, artificial photosynthesis inspired by how plants convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen may help alleviate global warming.

Researchers from the University of Illinois managed to produce fuel through artificial photosynthesis. Just like in natural photosynthesis, the process involved the use of water, carbon dioxide and visible light.

By converting carbon dioxide into more complex molecules like propane, researchers are now a step closer to using excess carbon dioxide to store solar energy in the form of chemicals. Hydrocarbons created from the processes may be used to power fuel cells for generating electrical current and voltage.

The process can also provide a means to repurpose atmospheric carbon dioxide that wreaks havoc to the planet.

Converting Water And Carbon Dioxide Into Fuel

In the new study published in the journal Nature Communications, Prashant Jain and colleagues developed an artificial process that uses the same green light portion of the visible light spectrum used during natural photosynthesis to convert water and carbon dioxide into fuel.

"Sunlight-driven conversion of CO2 to fuels is particularly attractive as a means to store intermittent solar energy in the form of C-C and C-H bonds," the researchers wrote in their study.

The researchers used electron-rich gold nanoparticles as a catalyst. They said these materials have surfaces that interact favorably with the molecules of carbon dioxide. These are also efficient at absorbing light and do not degrade or break down like other metals.

Liquid Fuel Better Than Gas

According to Jain, the goal is to generate complex, liquefiable hydrocarbons from excess carbon dioxide and other sustainable resources such as sunlight.

The researchers said that liquid fuels are better than gas because they are easier, safer and more economical to transport. They can also store more energy.

"They are made from long-chain molecules, contain more bonds-meaning they pack energy more densely," Jain explained.

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