Today we’re talking about the original solar power: photosynthesis.

Long before we put those little solar cells into our pocket calculators for math class, our neighbors in the plant world have been taking in sunlight and converting it into substances they can use to fuel up.

Humans have been trying to figure out how to replicate this process for a long time, and we’ve had some successes using metals as catalysts for chemical reactions that generate fuel.

But a team at the University of Michigan took a big step forward last year.

They managed to find a combination of metals that will kick off a chemical reaction that produces methane gas, the same stuff a lot of people use for heating and cooking, and some cars and buses use in place of gasoline.

All it takes is light, carbon dioxide and water; the copper and iron catalyst helps them turn back into methane.

This team is not the first to find a way to re-form methane, but the Michigan team’s catalyst works much more quickly than the old methods.

Right now they can convert 51 percent of the light energy into fuel, so it’ll take further research to make the process efficient enough that it could be practical and cost-efficient.

In other words, we’re still not quite at the standard set by plants. But then, they’ve been doing this a lot longer than we have.

I don’t know where this next idea came from, and I’m not sure I want to know, but here goes: a company in Japan will make a personalized mask for you in the shape of your pet’s face.

So you’ve got a cat, and for a few hundred thousand yen, or several thousand US dollars, you can have a mask of that cat’s head made, that you can then wear around the house, which will serve as evidence to the cat that no human can be trusted and they should continue to ignore everything we do.

Taking a cue from plants, new chemical approach converts carbon dioxide to valuable fuel (Science)

This Japanese Company Will Make You A Wearable Replica Mask Of Your Pet’s Head (Bolde)

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Photo by Andreas Levers via Flickr/Creative Commons