The imitation foliage mimics photosynthesis, the chemical reaction by which plants convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into energy.

Professor Reisner and his team managed to ensure the device does not release any additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, because of the combination of materials and catalysts used. When the sheet is submerged in a bath of water and carbon dioxide and then exposed to sunlight, a chemical reaction takes place.

“We want to get to the point where we can cleanly produce a liquid fuel that can also be easily stored and transported,” said Erwin Reisner, professor at the University of Cambridge‘s department of chemistry.

Similar to photosynthesis, the absorption of the sunlight excites electrons into a higher state – converting sunlight into potential chemical energy. With the sheet device, this energy is transferred when the electrons join the carbon dioxide and protons in the water to make a colourless yet pungent liquid called formic acid.

Original article published here.