The results of the project are now added to the diversification of energy sources that currently tends to A LEAFcoordinated by José Ramón Galán-Mascarós from the Catalan Institute of Chemical Research (ICIQ-CERCA) and in which scientific institutions from France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland also participate.
This artificial leaf converts CO2 and H2O into fuels using sunlight
This artificial photosynthesis research initiative, one of the largest funded by the European Commission, consists of an autonomous device capable of converting carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) into fuels using sunlight, in a similar way.
The innovative cell the team developed provides solar-to-fuel efficiency of over 10%, achieving world record current densities without the use of critical materials.
This shows that sustainability and high productivity can also be achieved with low-cost and scalable materials, according to the researchers.
Instruments used for research. /ICIQ
Furthermore, they introduce the new concept of producing hydrogen (H2) and an element or ‘format’ to store it simultaneously, the latter being used to generate it later in the absence of sunlight.
This solution allows for the first time a continuous production (24/7) of hydrogen by means of an artificial leaf device.
“A-LEAF was a really interesting and challenging project, and ending up with a highly efficient prototype was the icing on the cake,” says Professor Javier Pérez-Ramírez of ETH in Zurich.
A solution is presented that, for the first time, allows the continuous production of hydrogen by means of an artificial leaf device
This approach was validated in a compact electrochemical flow cell architecture, with copper-sulfur (Cu-S) and nickel-iron-zinc (Ni-Fe-Zn) based electrodes for proton and CO2 reduction reactions and evolution of oxygen, respectively) supported by gas diffusion electrodes, integrated into a low-cost silicon photovoltaic module.
The cell operates with a current density of about 17 milliamps per square centimeter (mA cm-2) and a voltage of 2.5 volts (stable for more than 24 hours and during on and off operations), providing a shape productivity greater than 190 micromoles per square meter per second (μmol h−1 cm−2).
The results of this study pave the way for the implementation of affordable artificial leaf systems in the future energy scenario, providing a sustainable solution to the great challenge of achieving the energy transition and transforming the current centralized model into a distributed one.
The next step is to demonstrate the industrial viability
Siglinda Perathoner (Università degli Studi di Messina)
“This is the first example of an artificial leaf with an order of magnitude greater efficiency than the natural leaf. This big step would not have been possible without the close interaction and collaboration of many research centers with multidisciplinary competences. Now, we are looking to implement the next step to make a full-scale prototype to demonstrate industrial viability”, explains Professor Siglinda Perathoner, from the Università degli Studi di Messina (Italy).
The A-leaf technology is ready for further scale and optimization, with the ultimate goal of building an artificial tree, thus supporting the dream of a sustainable future, according to the authors, who publish their study in Energy and Environmental Sciences.
“Beyond the productivity numbers, our biggest success was bringing together a European team of world leaders in their different research areas to work together with a common goal: to prove that an artificial leaf can also work when built exclusively with accessible materials, offering a record performance in this state-of-the-art technology”, concludes Galán-Mascarós.
Researchers who participated in the project. / ICIQ-CLOSE
Galán-Mascarós, JR “An artificial leaf device constructed with earth-abundant materials for combined H2 production and storage as a format with efficiency > 10%” Energy and Environmental Sciences (2023)