herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Cars could be fuelled by leaf technology

An oil substitute made with "artificial leaf" technology could be powering cars, ships and planes in 30 years, according to an expert.

Scientists have applied a new twist to the process of photosynthesis by which plants harness the energy of sunlight.

Instead of producing organic material from carbon dioxide, as plants do, they plan to manufacture hydrocarbon fuel from photosynthesising bacteria.

This has been tried before, with little success.

But recently the University of Glasgow team had a "eureka moment" -- the discovery that the process could be driven by electricity instead of light.

Professor Richard Cogdell, who heads the research, believes the greater efficiency this achieves could make the technology a major energy source in decades to come.



DISAPPOINTED

He said: "To really sustain our way of life after the oil runs out we have to be able to make, renewably and sustainably, dense portable fuels for transport, especially for aeroplanes and ships."

Prof Cogdell envisages power stations containing vats of bacteria churning out large quantities of burnable fuel. The bugs would break down carbon dioxide in a potentially carbon-neutral process, and might even help reduce levels of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Solar panels could provide some of the electricity needed, thereby simulating true photosynthesis.

Prof Cogdell added: "I would be very disappointed if this wasn't working in the real world in 30 years."

hnews@herald.ie

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