CAMBRIDGE, UK – The researchers from the University of Cambridge, UK, harnessed the power of photosynthesis to convert CO2, water and sunlight into multi-carbon fuels – ethanol and propanol – in a single step. These fuels have a high energy density and can be easily stored or transported, according to scientists.

Unlike fossil fuels, these solar fuels produce net zero carbon emissions and are completely renewable. And unlike most bioethanol, they do not divert any agricultural land away from food production, experts said.

While the technology is still at the laboratory scale, the researchers said their artificial leaves are an important step in the transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy.

Dr. Motiar Rahaman, the new study’s first author, said: “Shining sunlight on the artificial leaves and getting liquid fuel from carbon dioxide and water is an amazing bit of chemistry.

“Normally, when you try to convert CO2 into another chemical product using an artificial leaf device, you almost always get carbon monoxide or syngas, but here, we’ve been able to produce a practical liquid fuel just using the power of the Sun.

“It’s an exciting advance that opens up whole new avenues in our work.”

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