“Artificial Leaves” for Solar Energy!

18 Mar, 2012

Dr. Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy and Professor of Chemistry at MIT, announced that a research team had finally found out how to copy photosynthesis artificially in order to create electricity easily, and at a low cost. As part of the MIT Energy Initiative and funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Chesonis Family Foundation, this project was designed to help transform and improve today’s energy systems in order to insure an effective global energy system in the future.

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/ artificial-leaf-0930.html

Now, you may beasking yourself how they did this.

Basically, they created an “artificial leaf” of the size of a credit card, which is a thin sheet of metal, electronics and catalysts. This “leaf” ’s main feature is that it contains catalysts made from cheap, not hazardous, and readily available materials such as nickel, silicon and cobalt. These catalysts are placed directly on the “leaf”, imitating the actual photovoltaic cells position on trees’ leafs and avoiding any wiring as well as speeding the breakdown of water into hydrogen and oxygen. The plan is collect the hydrogen and the oxygen separately and recombine them inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity anywhere, anytime.

[media-credit name="http://www.technology review.com/energy/21536/" align="alignright" width="127"][/media-credit]In Dr. Nocera’s words, the goal of this “artificial leaf” is “to make each home its own power station” and bring electricity to the billions of people who still don’t have access to it at home. So, when this device is placed in a gallon of water in direct sunlight, it can create enough electricity to power a home in the developing world. Nocera and his team hope that, thanks to this leaf and these catalysts ability to work at room temperature, a small home can be run on energy extracted from a bottle and a half of water, even if dirty.

Dr. Daniel Nocera’s company Sun Catalytix, backed by the Tata Group of India,Polaris Ventures Partners, and the US Depertment of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, is working on the commercial development of this new technology that allows us use and effectively store solar energy. This new discovery will increase electricity’s availability and reliability, which represents the main challenge of renewable energy.

As Dr. Daniel Nocera said, “This is just the beginning”. So, watch out for these new leaves!


Here is a nice video about it with Dr. Nocera himself explaining this discovery! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7ok8cOJbmo

And this is another video with Dr. Nocera talking about “The Role of New Technologies in a Sustainable Energy Economy”.


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