Scientists are hard at work on a new alchemy: brewing fuel for cars -- synthetic gasoline -- from little more than water and sunshine, Bloomberg reports.


Mimicking the way plants turn sunlight and carbon dioxide in the air into energy and oxygen, the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at the California Institute of Technology is in a race to trump nature and slow global warming. Nate Lewis, a Caltech professor and solar energy researcher, has a plan to remake fuel as we know it.


"If we couldn't get to that, we wouldn't be doing it," Lewis told Bloomberg.


To revolutionize transportation fuel, Lewis has a two-step plan. First, the coalition aims to develop a system to make large amounts of hydrogen fuel using cheap solar-panel-like devices. Liquid or gaseous hydrogen, which can power superclean fuel-cell cars, is needed for chemical plants and refineries.


Then comes the second step: Applying that same research to a system that can blend the hydrogen fuel with carbon dioxide from the air, much as a plant does, to make liquid fuels that can power cars, heavy trucks, boats or aircraft.


Synthetic, carbon-free gasoline won't come easy, quick or cheap. Read more