Researchers have tapped into a more efficient way to produce hydrogen.

A new method using an artificial leaf to efficiently convert sunlight into fuel in a move that could help reduce carbon emissions has emerged.

The new method, developed by professors Jae Sung Lee, Ph.D. and Ji-Wook Jang, Ph.D. at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea in collaboration with Prof. Roel van de Krol, Ph.D. at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, Germany, does not generate carbon dioxide emissions by using the hydrogen produced by the artificial leaf.

“We aim to achieve 10 percent enhanced light harvesting efficiency within three years,” Lee said in a statement. “This technology will greatly contribute to the establishment of the renewable-energy-type hydrogen refueling station by supplying cheap fuel for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.”

In the study, the researchers presented a hetero-type dual photoelectrodes, where two photoanodes of different bandgaps are connected in parallel for extended light harvesting.

The new artificial leaf will mimic the natural process of underwater photosynthesis of aquatic plants to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be harvested for fuel.

The groundbreaking technique is expected to contribute to several countries in continued efforts to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The hydrogen produced could also be used as a cheap and stable hydrogen fuel for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Similar to other plants, marine plants generate energy from the sun through photosynthesis. However, it is difficult for marine plants to receive the full sunlight deep under the sea and are therefore subjected to various types of photosynthesis that selectively utilizes wavelengths reaching their depths.

The study was published in Nature Communications.

This research has been supported by the Climate Change Response project and the Basic Science Research Program through the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning.