Trees and other plant life boost the overall oxygen in the environment, while also clearing the air of carbon dioxide pollution. But growing trees can take years, and isn’t feasible in high-population urban areas. But what if your roof was equipped with special materials that could convert carbon dioxide into electricity?

Cities Are Major Sources of Carbon Dioxide

Last fall, researchers gloomily declared that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have now surpassed 400 parts per million. They say carbon dioxide levels will only continue to rise as society becomes increasingly industrialized. These record-highs for CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere only echo peak levels from millions of years ago. Since then, these levels have never reached these heights.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide traps heat like a blanket covering the earth. The more of it in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped. Whether or not global warming exists (since the current U.S. president denies its existence), the fact is that producing more CO2 without an efficient method to prevent its buildup in the atmosphere will only lead to higher overall temperatures.

The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center states that mobile sources of carbon dioxide emissions only account for 26 percent of CO2 emissions from human activity. These include cars, airplanes, and other moving vehicles that emit CO2. They say the bigger percentage of human activity CO2 emissions come from stationary sources, like factories, apartments, houses, businesses, electrical plants, ice fishing houses, and etc., which contribute 65 percent.

Since cities have a high proportion of mobile sources (think of the traffic-crowded streets) and electricity-consuming buildings and other stationary sources, they are major sources of human activity carbon dioxide emissions.

Trees and most plant life can help combat carbon dioxide pollution because they take in CO2 and release oxygen as part of photosynthesis. But cities and other urban areas are too cramped with man-made structures for sufficient area to grow a significant amount of plant life. It’s a double jeopardy – not only are cities releasing a major amount of carbon dioxide, but they aren’t capable of cultivating plant life to counter their CO2 emissions.

How This Artificial Photosynthetic Structure Can Bring Hope for the Battle Against Global Warming

Chemistry professor Dr. Fernando Uribe-Romo of the University of Florida may have invented a remarkable solution to city carbon dioxide pollution. He and his team fashioned organic compounds onto titanium. The organometallic structure falls within a class called metal-organic frameworks.

The organic compounds act like antennae that absorb the sun’s most abundant radiation – those in the visible range. In this case, Dr. Uribe-Romo selected for sunlight components within the blue wavelength range. The absorbed radiation catalyzed a reaction that transformed surrounding carbon dioxide into carbon compounds that are used in solar fuel cells.

In other words, the invention cleans the air of CO2 and converts it into solar power! Professor Uribe-Romo hopes that this technology can be developed and fastened onto urban rooves. These would act like solar panels that can power buildings by eating carbon dioxide pollution. Unlike plant life, they can be installed virtually everywhere in a city.

He says his team is working on adjusting the organic components such that they’ll be able to absorb other visible wavelength components of sunlight.

Hopefully this new artificial photosynthetic structure can be the answer to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Since they require nothing but solar power and carbon dioxide to work, incorporating them into building regulations may significantly cut human activity carbon dioxide emissions before the greenhouse gas can reach the atmosphere.