Artificial leaf produces electricity through photosynthesis
A synthetic leaf has been created that mimics the photosynthesis process, converting sunlight and water into a source of electrical energy.
Developed by a research team at MIT led by Dr Daniel Nocera, the leaf could be a significant step towards green energy becoming a sustainable reality.
The device is shaped more like a playing card than a leaf, but is thinner and made from silicon. If it is placed in a gallon of water in bright sunlight, the artificial leaf splits water molecules into their component gases: hydrogen and oxygen.
Tap those gases in a fuel cell and you have a means to turn the leaf's output into electricity – and enough of it to power a typical developing world house for a day, Nocera reckons.
This isn't the first attempt to make an artificial leaf – boffins at London's Imperial college have had a go before – but it is the first that could be widely used.
The key is Nocera's use of inexpensive catalysts, made from nickel and cobalt, which efficiently electrolyse the water in the presence of sunlight. In testing, he showed it could operate for a continuous 45 hours without a hiccup.
"Nature is powered by photosynthesis, and I think that the future world will be powered by photosynthesis as well in the form of this artificial leaf," Nocera said. ®
...today's Dilbert covers the likely source of this story:
Better than cracking hydrocarbons
Which seems to be the current thinking for how we're going to power the new hydrogen cars that seem to be just over the horizon.
Question is - how much hydrogen to we get vs cost of production and expected life of the leaf?
Good on them though - hope this comes to fruition, as it were.
Typical power-x-for-y-time meaningless statement...
Wow, it'll power something with an unstated power requirement for a whole day, after being exposed to sunlight for an unstated amount of time. Way to go, scientists!
Still, having read the linked article their claim of 10x the efficiency of actual leaves is interesting...
this is such a classic example of people not being impressed anymore
i seen a standup do a skit a few years back can't remember who and he made the point of how amazed we all were when like, portable tape players came out, or when sky first arrived here..it was amazing!
And how nowadays kids get given what would be classed as a supercomputer 20 years ago in their pockets and they just want more..
They've created a bloody artificial leaf! How about a few "wow! that's pretty freaking clever!"'s before questioning its operatability (is that even a word).
I dunno i just think that's bloody fantastic, ignoring all it's claims and if they're viable..the very fact that they did this is just incredible.
More useful than the single process that feeds the entire world?
I'm guessing not. Quite. ;)