Researchers at the University of Cambridge in England have created “artificial leaves” that convert energy from sunlight and water into clean fuel and hope that a scaled-up version of the prototype could be used on polluted waterways, in ports, or on the ocean, helping to decrease the shipping industry’s carbon footprint. The lightweight, flexible devices work similarly to how green plants convert sunlight into food, using two different kinds of fuel cells to produce a chemical reaction that turns sunlight into synthetic gas. The synthetic fuel, made of hydrogen and carbon monoxide molecules, may provide a cleaner alternative to natural gas and oil. Led by Professor Erwin Reisner, scientists at Cambridge have been working on this for years. While more research and testing are needed to perfect the prototypes, Reisner said the new design “opens up whole new ways that these artificial leaves could be used.”

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