Sunlight into Liquid Fuel: Solution to Biofuel Landgrabs?
A new clean technology to turn sunlight into liquid fuel could drastically shrink the need for large plantations to grow crops for biofuels, while combating climate change, Harvard University researchers said on Thursday.
That could help protect food supplies and local people's land rights, they suggested.
Dubbed "bionic leaf 2.0", the technology uses solar panels to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, the scientists said in a study published in the journal Science.
Once separated, hydrogen is moved into a chamber where it is consumed by bacteria, and with help from a special metal catalyst and carbon dioxide, the process generates liquid fuel.
About 4 percent of the world's farmland is used to grow crops for fuel rather than food, according to a University of Virginia study published in March.
Tens of thousands of small-scale farmers across Africa, Asia and Latin America have been displaced by plantations growing crops to make biofuels, according to GRAIN, a Barcelona-based land rights group.