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Harvard University Researchers introduce “Bionic Leaf” that will turn Sunlight into Liquid Fuel

Tapping sunlight to convert it into liquid fuels would reduce the vast areas of land usually used for producing plants that generate biofuels

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An Agricultural field in Argentina. Image source: Wikipedia
  • “Bionic leaf 2.0” is a cost-effective alternative energy source
  • The process includes tapping sunlight to convert it into liquid fuels 
  • This will reduce the need to grow crops like sugarcane and corn that are normally cultivated for biofuels

To combat climate change, a new clean technology “Bionic leaf 2.0”, has been introduced by the researchers at Harvard University in the academic journal Science, on Thursday, June 2.

The study in the recent publication of the journal discusses how “Bionic leaf 2.0” aims to make use of solar panels for splitting molecules of water into oxygen and hydrogen. On separation of the water compounds, hydrogen is moved into a chamber for consumption by bacteria. A specialised metal catalyst and carbon dioxide in the chamber then helps generate a liquid fuel. “The method is an artificial version of photosynthesis in plants,” say scientists.

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Another efficient way of farming. Aquaponics- A Deep Water Culture hydroponics system where plant grow directly into the effluent rich water without a soil medium. Image source: Wikipedia
Another efficient way of farming. Aquaponics- A Deep Water Culture hydroponics system where plant grow directly into the effluent rich water without a soil medium. Image source: Wikipedia

Tapping sunlight to convert it into liquid fuels would reduce the vast areas of land usually used for producing plants that generate biofuels. According to a study by the University of Virginia, about 4 per cent of the world’s farmland is currently under crops for fuel rather than crops for food.

Crops like sugarcane and corn are normally cultivated for biofuels. “Tens of thousands of small-scale farmers across Africa, Asia, and Latin America have been displaced by plantations growing crops to make biofuels,” a Barcelona-based land rights group GRAIN was quoted saying.

“This [new energy source] is not competing with food for agricultural land,” said Harvard University Professor of Energy Daniel Nocera to Thomson Reuters. The land-area requirement to install such solar panels is about one-tenth the size of what would be needed for sugar cane. It would further help reduce emission of greenhouse gases and eventually reduce global warming levels.

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“Bionic leaf 2.0” converts solar energy into liquid fuel with 10 percent efficiency, far higher than the 1 percent efficiency seen in the fastest-growing plants that use a similar process, Nocera added.

Despite the fact that growing biofuels or extracting fossil fuels are cheaper than producing renewable energy, it is believed that the technology has potentials of replacing oil wells or plantations for fuel.

Nocera is also optimistic that “Bionic leaf 2.0” would appeal to investors as a cost-effective alternative energy source if the government decides on pricing carbon dioxide emissions. He adds that a carbon tax to boost US gas prices equalling that of European levels might impel investments in the new technology. However, that is yet to be on the cards.

-by Maariyah (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @MaariyahSid

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Global Energy Demands Might Rise by 58 Percent Before 2050 Due to Climate Change

They tried to determine how energy demand would shift relative to today's climate under modest and high-warming scenarios

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Global, Energy, Climate Change
The researchers' team led by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria carried out an analysis using temperature projections from 21 climate models. Pixabay

In the next 30 years, the world will see a dramatic rise in energy demand due to the impact of climate change, say researchers.

In a study, published in Nature Communications journal, the researchers maintained that the energy demand would rise by at least 11 per cent due to global warming by 2050.

For the study, the researchers’ team led by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria carried out an analysis using temperature projections from 21 climate models, and population and economy projections for five socioeconomic scenarios.

They tried to determine how energy demand would shift relative to today’s climate under modest and high-warming scenarios around 2050.

Global, Energy, Climate Change
In the next 30 years, the world will see a dramatic rise in energy demand due to the impact of climate change, say researchers. Pixabay

The study’s findings indicated that under “modest” global warming conditions, the energy demand would rise between 11-27%. Whereas under “vigorous” warming conditions, the global energy demand would rise between 25-58%.

The magnitude of the increase depends on three uncertain factors — the future pathways of global greenhouse gas emissions; the different ways that climate models use this information to project future hot and cold temperature extremes in various world regions; and the manner in which countries’ energy consumption patterns change under different scenarios of future increases in population and income, the researchers said.

They observed that the rising temperatures due to climate change would fuel energy demand significantly higher as compared to population and income growth.

“An important way in which society will adapt to rising temperatures from climate change is by increasing cooling during hot seasons and decreasing heating during cold seasons,” explained study’s co-author Enrica de Cian, Associate Professor at Ca’ Foscari University of VeniceA

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“Changes in space conditioning directly impact energy systems, as firms and households demand less natural gas, petroleum, and electricity to meet lower heating needs, and more electricity to satisfy higher cooling needs,” she added.

The study’s findings represent the initial impacts of global warming. They do not account for the additional adjustments in fuel supplies and prices, the researchers asserted.A

“The lower the level of income per person, the larger the share of income that families need to spend to adapt to a given increase in energy demand,” noted lead author Bas van Ruijven, a researcher with IIASA Energy Programme.

Global, Energy, Climate Change
The energy demand would rise by at least 11 per cent due to global warming by 2050. Pixabay

“Some scenarios in our study assume continued population growth and in those cases temperature increases by 2050 could expose half a billion people in the lowest-income countries in the Middle-East and Africa to increases in energy demand of 25% or higher,” Ruijven said.

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The study’s results can be used in future to calculate how energy market dynamics will ultimately determine changes in energy consumption and emissions, the researchers said. (IANS)