Questions for ‘High-tech ‘leaves’ create green fuels from the sun’ 

a macro photo of a leaf, showing the veins and individual plant cells

Green plants take carbon dioxide, water and sunlight to create their own fuel. Scientists are making artificial plant leaves to do much the same thing in the lab. The difference? Their end product is a liquid alternative to fossil fuels.

Simon Gakhar/Moment/Getty Images Plus

To accompany High-tech solar ‘leaves’ create green fuels from the sun


Before Reading:

  1. What is photosynthesis? Give one chemical ingredient required for photosynthesis. What provides the energy for photosynthesis? List three species that carry out photosynthesis. Identify one species that does not carry out photosynthesis.
  2. In biology, an “organ” is a structure in a living thing’s body that carries out a specific function. Just as animals have organs, such as livers and lungs, so do plants. One type of plant organ is the leaf. Considering the definition of an organ, what do you think is the main function of this plant organ? Explain how a leaf’s structure makes it ideal for this job. Why do animals not need this particular organ?

During Reading:

  1. What color is chlorophyll? What does chlorophyll do for a green plant?
  2. What is the end result of normal photosynthesis?
  3. What two alcohol fuels does this new “artificial leaf” produce?
  4. What color of light is absorbed by the water-splitting device based on the mineral perovskite? What subatomic particle is released by the splitting of water?
  5. What type of organism does Peidong Yang use for making solar fuels?
  6. According to Joanna Kargul, why is relying upon minerals for the new artificial-leaf technology potentially problematic?

After Reading:

  1. Refer back to Question #2 in Before Reading. Now that you’ve read the story, would you make any adjustments to this answer? Why or why not? Why do you think this new technology is described as an “artificial leaf”? In other words, why do scientists compare this technology to the functions of a leaf? Identify one similarity between a natural leaf and this technology. Identify one major difference.
  2. What kind of fuel do researchers hope to replace with this “solar fuel”? Why do scientists want this fuel replaced? In your opinion, how important is it to find alternatives for that type of fuel?
  3. Besides fuels, what are two other substances that Kargul’s solar fuel lab can produce? For one of these substances, offer one reason why finding an eco-friendly way to make this substance can benefit the environment. Then, identify one benefit for humanity. Finally, how might finding eco-friendly fuel options help you personally?