Wireless device makes clean fuel from sunlight, CO2 and water
Researchers have developed a standalone device that converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into a carbon-neutral fuel, without requiring any additional components or electricity. The device, developed by a team from the University of Cambridge, is a significant step toward achieving artificial photosynthesis – a process mimicking the ability of plants to convert sunlight into energy. It is based on an advanced ‘photosheet’ technology and converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and formic acid – a storable fuel that can be either be used directly or be converted into hydrogen. The results represent a new method for the conversion of carbon dioxide into clean fuels. The wireless device could be scaled up and used on energy ‘farms’ similar to solar farms, producing clean fuel using sunlight and water. While the artificial leaf used components from solar cells, the new device doesn’t require these components and relies solely on photocatalysts embedded on a sheet to produce a so-called photocatalyst sheet. The sheets are made up of semiconductor powders, which can be prepared in large quantities easily and cost-effectively.
In addition, this new technology is more robust and produces clean fuel that is easier to store and shows potential for producing fuel products at scale. The test unit is 20 square centimetres in size, but the researchers say that it should be relatively straightforward to scale it up to several square metres. In addition, the formic acid can be accumulated in solution, and be chemically converted into different types of fuel. The carbon-dioxide converting cobalt-based catalyst is easy to make and relatively stable. While this technology will be easier to scale up than the artificial leaf, the efficiencies still need to be improved before any commercial deployment can be considered. The researchers are experimenting with a range of different catalysts to improve both stability and efficiency.
(Content and Image Courtesy: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/wireless-device-makes-clean-fuel-from-sunlight-co2-and-water)