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Prototype machine takes solar to new heights

The creation of a prototype solar device that turns the sun’s energy into fuel has been announced by Science magazine.

The report, which was also featured on the BBC News website, states that the device uses the Sun’s rays and a metal oxide called ceria to break down carbon dioxide or water into fuels, which can then be stored and transported.

It uses a quartz window and cavity to concentrate sunlight into a cylinder lined with cerium oxide, also known as ceria, which is able to inhale and exhale oxygen as it cools and heats up.

When carbon dioxide or water is pumped into the device, this is converted to hydrogen and/or carbon monoxide by the ceria, which has the potential to be used as energy for fuel cells or to create syngas for fuel.

The prototype was devised by researchers in the US and Switzerland, who state that the use of ceria represents a major breakthrough.

While only producing tiny amounts of energy at present, the researchers state that efficiency rates of up to 19% can be achieved through further refinement of the device and this would make it commercially viable.