Another day, another invention that could save lives. This week in Science, researchers at the University of Chicago announced the successful creation of an artificial leaf. For green energy nerds, you know that artificial leaves have been around for a while. In 2011 the breakthrough was announced at the American Chemical Society. What was it exactly? A cheap, card-sized silicon sheet that, when placed in a glass of tap water and exposed to sunlight, split the water into hydrogen and oxygen. Woah.
Five years later we have the new artificial leaf. Still powered by sunlight, the leaf produces a kind of synthetic gas (syngas) that can be converted to diesel or other fuels. Not only can it capture CO2 and producing hydrocarbons the leaf can convert carbon dioxide to sugar. This means artificial leaves can remove pollutants, produce clean energy, and make food! The best part? It's 20 times cheaper than comparable catalysts.
This technology could eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, clean up our polluted air, and produce food for millions of people. It's been a summer of disillusion for America, but even in the darkest of moments, science brings us toward the light.