Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created an artificial leaf that could harness Sun’s energy and provide a potentially limitless source of energy by the process of photosynthesis, that green plants use to convert sunlight and water into energy.
The new device is a playing card sized silicon wafer coated on either side with two different catalysts. The silicon absorbs sunlight and passes that energy to the catalysts to split water into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen.
“A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades,” said Daniel Nocera, Ph.D., who led the research team. “We believe we have done it. The artificial leaf shows particular promise as an inexpensive source of electricity for homes of the poor in developing countries. Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” he said. “One can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic power system based on this technology.
The hydrogen and oxygen gases would be stored in a fuel cell, which uses those two materials to produce electricity, located either on top of the house or beside it.
“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,” said Nocera, a chemist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
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