Scientists perfect the artificial leaf.
MIT's Daniel Nocera, Ph.D, believes he can power the developing world- and eventually the whole world- through photosynthesis. Transferring sunlight and water into energy has long been a Holy Grail for the environmental sustainability movement. Small, inexpensive and durable artificial "leafs" would provide an easy source of energy for homes that don't have the luxury of a power grid. Until recently, such a device has been considered an unattainable dream.
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But now Daniel and his research team have created a functioning artificial leaf. ""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,"
The current product is roughly the size of a poker card. You simply drop it in a gallon bucket of water and place it out in the sunlight. That gallon would be enough to supply a developing-world home with power for an entire day. So far, the prototype leaves are able to work up to 45 hours continuously without a drop in efficiency. And the technology is still very young.
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Earlier artificial leaves weren't very efficient and were far too expensive, due to the rare materials required for their catalysts. The first "leaf" had a lifespan of just one day. But Dr. Nocera and his team have figured out how to create catalysts from cheaper materials, like nickel and cobalt. They've also figured out how to beat mother nature at her own game. The artificial leaf is ten times more efficient at photosynthesis than a real leaf. Take that, mother nature.