Engineers often look to nature for inspiration. For years, scientists have been trying to recreate how leaves capture CO2.

Here’s the exciting news – the University of Illinois have developed an artificial leaf which could play a major role in carbon capture. One example is the flue gases produced by coal-fired power plants.

Illustration credits: Meenesh Singh

The theory is: carbon dioxide forms bicarbonate ions which migrate through a membrane. They are dissolved in a liquid solution, then release concentrated CO2. This can be collected for fuel and other uses. And this method is 100 times more effective to surface area than other systems.

It can be scaled up or down for industrial and personal use. A home version could be the size of an air purifier. Hopefully, one day we will be capturing our own carbon and selling it back to some kind of ‘carbon grid’.

We prefer this idea to the mechanical trees in the Arizona desert. As you can see, they are massive and energy intensive!