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Moving artificial leaves out of the lab and into the air

Researchers have proposed a design solution that could bring artificial leaves out of the lab and into the environment. Their improved leaf, which would use carbon dioxide — a potent greenhouse gas — from the air, would be at least 10 times more efficient than natural leaves at converting carbon dioxide to fuel.

Artificial leaves mimic photosynthesis — the process whereby plants use water and carbon dioxide from the air to produce carbohydrates using energy from the sun. But even state-of-the-art artificial leaves, which hold promise in reducing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, only work in the laboratory because they use pure, pressurized carbon dioxide from tanks.

But now, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have proposed a design solution that could bring artificial leaves out of the lab and into the environment. Their improved leaf, which would use carbon dioxide — a potent greenhouse gas — from the air, would be at least 10 times more efficient than natural leaves at converting carbon dioxide to fuel. Their findings are reported in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

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