“Our devices are so light that they float like lotus leaves”


Virgil Andrei studied chemistry at Humboldt University in Berlin. Later, the native Romanian moved to the United Kingdom, where he earned a doctorate in artificial leaves at Cambridge University. He is currently a research fellow at the university’s St. John’s College. Recently Andrei spent six months in the USA researching the production of multicarbon products made from CO₂ and water. The researcher, who has always been interested in renewable energy, sees his experience abroad as an asset: “It inspired me and shapes and my idea of sustainable research,” he says.


Together with an interdisciplinary team, Virgil Andrei has created a leaf-like device that generates sustainable fuels from water and sunlight. It’s made of perovskite and metal oxide light absorbers, which are placed on flexible plastic and metal films. “Our devices are so light that they float like lotus leaves,” says Andrei. He and his team now aim to produce their leaves on a square-meter scale and use them to provide fuels in a decentralized manner. They would be particularly suitable for remote communities or in refueling stations for ships.

Photo: Chanon Pornrungro


Biofuel made of wood waste

Her work protects the climate and forests: Carolina Barcelos has developed a process for transforming biological waste into fuel.


Hydrocarbons from algae

Naomi Harada is researching a species of algae whose properties can reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

High-performance membranes

Ultrapure gases from slurry and manure

The Wipp Valley in the South Tyrol is successfully betting on biogas—partly thanks to Sepuran Green membranes from Evonik.


Crop residues for the fuel tank

Corn, wheat, straw, and millet: Researchers in the USA have found a way to produce ethanol from crop residues.

ELEMENTS Newsletter
Get fascinating insights into the research Evonik is conducting, and its social relevance, by subscribing to our free newsletter.