Cambridge study creates energy from sunlight, CO2 and water
The device uses a technology known as ‘photosheet’. This turns sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and formic acid – a storable fuel that can either be used directly or be converted into hydrogen.
The device is based on a solar reactor developed by the Cambridge team last year, which uses an ‘artificial leaf’ design. This reactor uses sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to produce a fuel known as syngas.
The results of the study have been reported in the journal Nature Energy. One of the report’s authors, Dr Qian Wang from Cambridge University’s Department of Chemistry, wrote that the photosheet process is an extremely efficient method for producing clean energy: “We were surprised how well it worked in terms of its selectivity – it produced almost no by-products. Sometimes things don’t work as well as you expected, but this was a rare case where it actually worked better.”
“It’s been difficult to achieve artificial photosynthesis with a high degree of selectivity, so that you’re converting as much of the sunlight as possible into the fuel you want, rather than be left with a lot of waste”.
Professor Erwin Reisner, the paper’s senior author, spoke about future plans for the new device: “In addition, storage of gaseous fuels and separation of by-products can be complicated – we want to get to the point where we can cleanly produce a liquid fuel that can also be easily stored and transported,”
“We hope this technology will pave the way toward sustainable and practical solar fuel production,” said Reisner.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.