Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have created a working prototype of an artificial leaf that can partially reproduce the process of photosynthesis. Its advantage is that it is adapted for use in real conditions. And the main difference from analogs is in a special membrane that ensures uniform gas exchange inside the installation.
The principle of separating water into hydrogen and oxygen in the light of the sun, as well as the further conversion of gases into fuel mixtures, was mastered more than ten years ago. On its basis, systems for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere were created, but they could only work at a certain gas pressure, which in reality is almost never found. The membrane developed by scientists in Chicago solves this problem.
The researchers took a sample plate of the photosynthesis block and wrapped it in a membrane, filling it with ordinary water. The liquid gradually evaporates through the micropores, and the more sunlight and the stronger the heating, the faster the process goes. The evaporated water molecules are replaced by carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, after which it is converted into carbon monoxide - a ready-made fuel for gas generators. Oxygen, as a by-product, is released back into the atmosphere.
The developers claim that their artificial leaf works 10 times more efficiently than living leaves. If we make 360 such leaves with a size of 170x20 cm, then in a day they will be able to absorb 10% of all carbon dioxide within a radius of 100 meters from themselves. This will generate about half a ton of fuel in the form of gas and all this without significant costs, including the cost of maintaining the installation.