Cambridge University researchers develop liquid fuels from CO2 and water

May 18, 2023 |

In the UK, researchers from Cambridge University have developed a solar-powered technology that converts carbon dioxide and water into liquid fuels that can be added directly to a car’s engine as drop-in fuel.  While the technology is still at laboratory scale, the researchers say their ‘artificial leaves’ are an important step in the transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy. The results are reported in the journal Nature Energy.

For several years, researchers based in the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, has been developing sustainable, zero-carbon fuels inspired by photosynthesis – the process by which plants convert sunlight into food – using artificial leaves.

To date, these artificial leaves have only been able to make simple chemicals, such as syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide that is used to produce fuels, pharmaceuticals, plastics and fertilisers. But to make the technology more practical, it would need to be able to produce more complex chemicals directly in a single solar-powered step.

The researchers developed a copper and palladium-based catalyst. The catalyst was optimised in a way that allowed the artificial leaf to produce more complex chemicals, specifically the multicarbon alcohols ethanol and n-propanol. Both alcohols are high energy density fuels that can be easily transported and stored.

Other scientists have been able to produce similar chemicals using electrical power, but this is the first time that such complex chemicals have been produced with an artificial leaf using only the energy from the Sun.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Category: Research

Thank you for visting the Digest.