An artificial leaf prototype was created by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The purpose of this project was to cut carbon dioxide in the air, which is the most abundant greenhouse gas causing climate change.
Carbon dioxide is released from most things including electricity generation, transportation, cement production, and from many other industries. Normally carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants, but too much is being produced and the CO2 that is not absorbed can be found in our air.
This artificial leaf will absorb more carbon dioxide than a natural plant would and could help cut carbon emissions.
How Much Carbon Do We Emit
Carbon emissions make up the majority of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world. In just the United States alone, carbon dioxide made up 81% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. The Emissions Gap Report 2018 highlighted that carbon emissions are on the rise for the first time in four years.
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is a big part of limiting the harmful effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement wants to limit global warming to a 1.5C temperature increase by the end of the century and this is only possible is emissions are cut significantly around the world.
How Much Better Is This Artificial Leaf
According to the artificial leaf’s creators, assistant professor Meenesh Singh, and Aditya Prajapati a graduate student assigned to his lab, it is 10 times more efficient at absorbing carbon in the air than a natural leaf.
Also unlike natural leaves that absorb carbon to produce carbohydrates to survive, the artificial leaf produces carbon monoxide, which can be used to create synthetic fuels. However, both still releases oxygen back into the air, which is great.
Leading The Charge for Artificial Plants
The researchers at UIC are not the only ones working on artificial leaves and trees, but they are the most advanced. Other artificial leaves work in lab conditions when pure CO2 is being absorbed, but that is not what happens in the real world. In reality, the CO2 in the air is not pure, it is akin to a diluted version of the gas.
The UIC artificial leaf works with the diluted version of the gas which makes it unique when compared to other artificial leaf prototypes. According to the creators, the artificial leaf can be used on a small scale, like a home, or on a large scale, like a power plant.
Regardless of whether this version is put into use, the findings are very reassuring that we will be able to cut emissions in the future. The only issue is time. Unless significant progress is made soon, the Paris Agreement’s goal will be unachievable.