Scientists everywhere are trying to come up with solutions to this planet’s imminent energy crisis, but very few ideas actually get to become reality. A project developed by MIT has every chance to be successful: the artificial leaf that can create energy from sunlight and water, much like actual leaves.
The concept was first unveiled a couple of years ago and in its early stages, it required only clean water to function. But the brain behind the project, veteran biochemist Daniel Nocera has recently announced an upgraded version. The artificial leaf technology is now self-healing and able to generate energy from dirty water as well.
The artificial leaf is actually a silicon solar cell provided with different catalytic materials to be able to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be stored in a cell and used as clean fuel. One leaf in four gallons of water can create 100 watts of energy a day. If placed in a larger container, it can create enough energy to power up a household in developing countries for a day.
And now, with its self-healing feature, the artificial leaf can be successfully used in places that do not have access to clean, purified water and a reliable energy source. Since it is made of common materials such as silicon, nickel and cobalt, it is a highly affordable alternative to create clean energy.
If it goes into mass production, the leaf has the potential to significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuel energy. It also marks an important step forward in achieving solar technology that can generate energy and store it for use during the night.
Scientists hope to be able to further improve this artificial leaf with technology that can convert the hydrogen obtained from water into some sort of liquid fuel. This fuel could be then used to power a wide range of electrical appliances and even portable generators and vehicles.
[Image via MIT]