First Practical Artificial Leaf Produces Hydrogen Fuel From Sunlight and Water
Plants' ability to survive and thrive on a simple diet of sunlight and water can seem sort of miraculous, especially to we animals who have to go through the indignity of eating other living things, pleasant as that may be at times. Wouldn't it be great to be able to harness the Earth's abundant supply of sunlight and water for our own power needs? A newly designed revision of the artificial leaf might let us do that on a wide scale, not for food of course, but for electricity.Read on...
MIT Chemist Develops Ultra-Efficient “Artificial Leaf”
MIT chemistry professor Daniel Nocera has been studying sustainable energy for a long while, and with his latest effort, he hopes that a chemical process similar to photosynthesis can reduce dependence on fossil fuels in the first and third worlds. Nocera's "artificial leaf" is a cheap fuel cell the size of a playing card. Leave it in a pool of water exposed to sunlight, and it will use the solar energy to split the water into oxygen and hydrogen, which will be used to power an electricity-producing fuel cell. (Technically, this makes the process involved electrolysis rather than photosynthesis, since there is no production of sugar or other organic compounds involved.) According to Nocera, all it takes is a gallon of water to power a house with moderate energy needs for a day:
With a single gallon of water, Nocera says, the chip could produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for an entire day. Provide every house on the planet with an artificial leaf and we could satisfy our 14 terrawatt need with just one gallon of water a day. Those are impressive claims, but they're also not just pie-in-the-sky, conceptual thoughts. Nocera has already signed a contract with a global megafirm to commercialise his groundbreaking idea. The mammoth Indian conglomerate, Tata Group has forged a deal with the MIT professor to build a small power plant, the size of a refrigerator, in about a year and a half.One potentially large setback: In many of the developing countries in need of power, water is a very dear -- and very limited -- resource. However, power plants like we currently use are secretly water-guzzlers: One estimate has it that coal and nuclear plants go through 200 billion gallons of water every day in the U.S. alone. (h/t HN.) Nocera's fuel cell sounds like a most encouraging step in the right direction: Get something like this to work with salt water and we'd really be talking sustainability. (via Wired UK. title pic via AnorZaken)Read on...