solar hydrocarbonWhen you think of solar, you probably of the technology that converts sunlight into energy, and you would be right. However it seems that researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have managed to create solar cells that can do more than just that, and will be able to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into hydrocarbon fuel.

The idea behind these solar cells is to mimic plants, so not only does it produce sustainable energy, but it also rids the atmosphere of significant amounts of carbon. According to Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC, “The new solar cell is not photovoltaic — it’s photosynthetic. Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight.”

It is believed that with these new solar cells, the cost of turning CO2 into fuel would cost around the same amount as a gallon of gasoline, meaning that it won’t be more expensive to turn to renewable energy, which in turn could render fossil fuels unnecessary. The researchers have also suggested that this technology could be useful on Mars, where the planet’s atmosphere is mostly CO2.

When and where exactly this technology will be implemented remains to be seen, but it has been suggested that it could be used in solar farms, but it could also be used for smaller scale applications, but no doubt this is a game changer.

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