MIT professor Daniel Nocera claims to have produced an artificial leaf, from stable and inexpensive materials, which mimics natural photosynthesis – the process which plants use to create energy from sunlight.
The artificial leaf is the size of a playing card and when placed in water it uses sunlight the produce hydrogen and oxygen which can be stored in a fuel cell to produce electricity.
More importantly in the fact the artificial leaf can be produced cheaply and easily from readily avalible materials and the artificial leaf is 10 more effective than nature’s leaf.
You may be thinking “Hang on a minute, i have PV solar panels which do the same job, why is this so revolutionary?” Well, PV solar panels have a few problems such as cost, the efficiency isn’t great and they don’t work at night. The technology behind the artificial leaf can use the extra energy produced by solar panels during the day to drive artificial photosynthesis. The hydrogen and oxygen can then be stored and used during the night. In essence each house would become its own power plant.
This would be particularly beneficial in the developing world where a house can provide enough power for itself for a day given an artificial leaf and a gallon of water.
YouTube Video: Daniel Nocera describes new process for storing solar energy
You may think this is all a bit of wishful thinking but Sun Catalytix, the company founded by Nocera to develop the artificial leaf, has already signed a deal with the international giant Tata Group to drive the technology forward.
- ACS Press release