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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
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  • “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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Google Takes Initiative To Clean And Make Our Planet Healthy

The tool suggests simple changes-like installing a low-flow showerhead and fixing common household leaks-that can help you be more water smart.

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Google asks employees to delete China search engine memo: Report. Wikimedia Commons

Google has teamed up with the California Academy of Sciences to launch an interactive new tool that will help reduce environmental footprint by informing the amount of water your shower uses or the impact of throwing away food or turning down the water heater by a few degrees.

The tool called Your Plan, Your Planet is an interactive way to understand your environmental impact and learn simple, science-based ways to improve it.

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People must be enough conscious regarding the protection of the Environment. Pixabay

“We all want a healthy planet. The small choices we make each day can help us get there. Learn simple tips from Google and the California Academy of Sciences to leave the earth in better shape,” Google said in a blog post late on Friday.

“Our greatest impact on the planet comes from just three things: our food, water, and energy usage. And if we each made a few small changes, we could all make a big difference,” wrote Jill Puente, Planet Earth Advocate, in the blog post.

Food production accounts for more than two-thirds of the world’s water use, and over a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions.

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A Google logo is seen at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, VOA

Your Plan, Your Planet, shows the water and carbon impact of what people eat and gives them smart ways to store it so that less food ends up in the trash.

Also Read: Environmentalists Investigate The Kerala Floods

The tool also suggests simple changes-like installing a low-flow showerhead and fixing common household leaks-that can help you be more water smart.

Much of the energy we use comes from burning natural resources, which in turn releases CO2 into the air. But easy tweaks, like washing laundry on a cold and adjusting the thermostat just a few degrees, can reduce the impact in a big way, Puente noted. (IANS)