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Artifical leaf promises new form of sustainable energy

first_imgSustainable energy has taken many forms over the years including solar, wind, water and geothermal heat. A new form of energy generation mimics a process called photosynthesis in which plants convert sunlight and water into energy. Dr. Daniel Nocera of MIT and his research team announced at the 241st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society that they have developed the first practical “artificial leaf” which is 10 times more efficient than a natural leaf when it comes to photosynthesis.Nocera says the leaf shows promise as an inexpensive source of electricity for developing countries. To be fair, his team isn’t the first to produce an “artificial leaf.” The first one was produced by John Turner of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado over a decade ago, but it had no chance for widespread use. That’s because it was unstable, only had a lifespan of one day, and was made up of rare and expensive metals.Nocera’s leaf on the other hand consists of inexpensive, widely available materials with improved stability. In fact, he has already shown that it is capable of producing energy for 45 hours without a drop in activity. The breakthrough seems to have come from Nocera’s discovery of inexpensive catalysts made of nickel and cobalt. The catalysts help to split water into its hydrogen and oxygen components when placed in a gallon of water in bright sunlight. The gases are stored in fuel cells which are used to produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for one day.While Nocera’s leaf is already 10 times more efficient than a natural leaf, he still believes he can boost the efficiency of the “artificial leaf” higher making it even more likely that the process that powers nature, photosynthesis, will also power a future world.Read more at the American Chemical Society press releaselast_img read more