Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have engineered a potentially game-changing solar cell that cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy.
The finding is reported in the July 29 issue of Science and was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. A provisional patent application has been filed.
Unlike conventional solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity that must be stored in heavy batteries, the new device essentially does the work of plants, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel, solving two crucial problems at once. A solar farm of such “artificial leaves” could remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce energy-dense fuel efficiently.
“The new solar cell is not photovoltaic — it’s photosynthetic,” says Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC and senior author on the study.
“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 said.
Someone pass the smelling salts, Al Gore just fainted at the prospect of cheap, renewable fuel that uses a greenhouse gas as a source, thus reducing it.
Here is where OPEC lost control of it's bowels,
The ability to turn CO2 into fuel at a cost comparable to a gallon of gasoline would render fossil fuels obsolete.
Like solar cells, the price will come down as production goes up.
It's still a ways off but the technology has been proven to work, now someone just needs to start mass producing them.
Theoretically, you could mount some of these and a small solar electrical panel on an autonomous vehicle out in the middle of nowhere and forget about it while it performs whatever task it was designed for.
Self fueling and unlike just electricity, you can get real work done with burnable fuels.