Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: A new solar cell has been developed by researchers that essentially works like a plant. This game-changing solar cell converts carbon dioxide into usable hydrocarbon fuel using only sunlight for energy.
"The new solar cell is not photovoltaic - it's photosynthetic," said senior study author Amin Salehi-Khojin from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
"Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight," he added.
While plants produce fuel in the form of sugar, the artificial leaf delivers syngas, or synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide. Syngas can be burned directly, or converted into diesel or other hydrocarbon fuels.
The ability to turn CO2 into fuel at a cost comparable to a gallon of gasoline would render fossil fuels obsolete.
Chemical reactions that convert CO2 into burnable forms of carbon are called reduction reactions, the opposite of oxidation or combustion.
Engineers have been exploring different catalysts to drive CO2 reduction, but so far such reactions have been inefficient and rely on expensive precious metals such as silver, Salehi-Khojin said.
"What we needed was a new family of chemicals with extraordinary properties," he added in a paper published in the journal Science.
(With IANS inputs)