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Harvard Scientists Develop Artificial Leaf That Makes Alcohol, Could Become Fuel

Harvard University hosts some of the most brilliant scientists in the world, and they keep working on various subjects.
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A recent study published last week shows the results of a project that has created an artificial leaf. The project is not new, as it was first shown in 2008, but it now has a significant update - the artificial “leaf” can make sustainable alcohol, which can be used as fuel.

We are writing about the team led by Daniel Nocera, a professor of energy at Harvard, who has decided to harness photosynthesis. Instead of an actual leaf, the team developed a device which is ten times more energy efficient than natural organisms, and it has the shape of a jar.

In its first version, the "scientific jar" from Harvard uses cobalt phosphate as a catalyst in water, and needs to be placed in sunlight to split water into Oxygen and Hydrogen.

The new one does the same thing, but scientists decided to harness the Hydrogen it created and grew an artificial microbe. They called id “Ralstonia eutropha,” and it breathes hydrogen and consumes CO2 out of the air.

Instead of just consuming CO2, a harmful greenhouse gas, the bacteria creates “PHB.” The three-letter name refers to a precursor to biodegradable plastic or burnable alcohols like isobutanol and isopentanol. Both of these can burn, but not with enough energy to be used in a raw form in conventional vehicles.

Eventually, the team of researchers from Harvard wants to make renewable fuels out of their project. Until they develop a refining process that will make ethanol out of the sustainable and eco-friendly source of alcohol, researchers must first think of something to do with their discovery.

If they just made it into fuel, the CO2 that was eliminated from the atmosphere would then be sent back after it burned, but they will take every part of the process one step at a time, as Bloomberg notes.

There is another possibility from this finding - using hydrogen for vehicles, and the byproduct of bacteria for renewable artificial plastic materials. However, we are still years away from the moment this formidable invention will reach the average consumer.


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