The University of Cambridge research team announced that they have developed an artificial leaf that can synthesize gas that can use fuel from the sun and water. According to a paper published in Nature Materials, the artificial leaves developed this time can be produced at low cost because they use relatively inexpensive cobalt. In addition, it is said that it can stably produce fuel even when sunlight is weak, such as on rainy or cloudy days.
The team of Virgil Andrei at Cambridge University succeeded in developing artificial leaves that make fuel. The research team that studied gas fuel and the like focused on the structure in which plants produce energy from water and carbon dioxide by photosynthesis using sunlight. By combining a catalyst using cobalt, a natural mineral, and two types of absorbing materials made using perovskite and bismuth vanadium oxide, artificial leaves that produce gaseous fuel from light, water, and carbon dioxide are developed. What was successful.
The artificial leaf developed by the research team dissolves carbon dioxide, soaks in water, and when exposed to light, oxygen is generated from one side of the absorber and catalyst. At the same time, the other absorbing material converts carbon dioxide and water into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. These gases are mixed to make gaseous fuel from syngas.
Syngas is a mixed gas of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and is mainly used in industrial fields for manufacturing such as fertilizers and pharmaceuticals. A research team that has been engaged in syngas research for more than 7 years said, “Now, syngas is produced by an industrial process that generates carbon dioxide, but using artificial leaves can produce carbon-neutral syngas.” It emphasizes the strength of artificial leaves that do not emit carbon dioxide and can synthesize synthetic gas only with sunlight.
Until now, artificial leaves that can synthesize fuel from water have appeared, but it was necessary to borrow the power of bacteria without synthesizing fuel alone. Also, the problem was that the existing artificial leaves cost more by using silver or platinum as a catalyst. However, the artificial leaf developed by the research team can reduce the cost by using relatively inexpensive cobalt as a catalyst. Moreover, since cobalt has a higher ability to synthesize fuel than conventional catalysts, it can synthesize fuel with little energy and can produce fuel in any region at any time, regardless of time and weather conditions.
The research team points out that renewable energy such as wind and solar can only meet 25% of the total global energy demand as of 2019. They expressed the view that energy sources that can be used for power generation and transportation will be the key to future global warming measures instead of fossil fuels.
The research group plans to conduct further research with the goal of developing artificial leaves that can produce liquid syngas fuel that can be used instead of gasoline. Related information can be found here .