Gallery: MIT Scientists Create Artificial Solar Leaf That Can Power Hom...

 

Scientist Dr. David Nocera has finally perfected a low-cost, artificial leaf-like device, that like a real leaf, mimics the process of photosynthesis. Nocera announced the creation of a miniature solar cell at the 241st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society last week. Nocera hopes to use his “leaf” to help make individual homes capable of becoming their own self-sufficient power stations. The idea of a cell that can reproduce the photosynthetic process came about over ten years ago, but initially required expensive and rare metals and materials that would price out the commercial consumer. But Nocera’s model uses inexpensive nickel and cobalt catalysts. These catalysts effectively and efficiently split hydrogen and oxygen at a production rate of about ten times that of one of Mother Nature’s leaves.

Using a simple mixture of sunlight and one gallon of water, the “leaf” which is the size of a playing card, is made of silicon, electronics and the aforementioned catalysts, which speed up the process.  Rather than producing energy directly like a photovoltaic cell, the “leaf” splits the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, which then produce electricity for personal and household use. The prototype can produce energy continuously for 45 hours without any fluctuations.

Nocera’s leaf could mean big things for household energy everywhere.  Poor and developing countries could source affordable electricity for their homes in small and remote villages without the construction of power lines and the like. In light of the ever increasing oil prices, Nocera’s renewable energy “leaf” would function practically as a furnace, providing low-cost energy as a common household device.  In fact, the “leaf” has been funded in part by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E transformational energy program- via our tax dollars.

Nocera’s “leaf” is ready for commercial production and distribution. Hopefully one day soon, each home will find it as common as a hot water heater!

Via Clean Technica

Images Wikimedia Commons

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7 Comments

  1. Floyd Johnson June 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    The absence of an estimated production timeline should have been the entire story. “Adding to decades of research and study on the photosynthesis model, Dr. Nocera has made a neat lab experiment that generates small amounts of electricity. We have no idea when this technology will be publicly available or if it will be commercially viable.”

    I hope I am wrong. I am a big supporter of alternative energy, but it looks like natural gas will be the best source of energy for the forseeable future.

  2. Pegasus1 April 10, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Home heating and automobile fuel consumption costs have risen sharply in the USA and there are homes here in the USA that are in a dire need for cheap fuel energy or people live in the cold. Producing the world for self fueled water heater is a first step in heating everyone’s home affordably. No one will live in the cold anymore thanks to Dr. Nocera!

  3. electric38 April 1, 2011 at 1:23 am

    Can we send a few of these “leaves” to the areas of the world who’s children do not have access to “mobile internet” to power their microwave towers? Tablet style computers are cheap enough now to mass produce (search Ford focus solar assisted plant using robotics to manufacture electric car) and send to the world’s poorest most remote child.
    Online education is already available at every level, incuding the world’s most prestigeous universities (via 2 way multimedia). Paper books are a thing of the past (thank goodness, now those that are motivated, and understand the long term value, can afford them). They are being translated into every language. This helps.
    On the web site, a sidebar allows you to choose which language you want to view the instructions in.
    http://www.bigshotcamera.org/index.php/world

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=bigshot-do-it-yourself&WT.mc_id=S A_CAT_TECH_20110329&posted=1#comments

    At first glance the idea appears simple. At second glance the teaching could have come from any language in the world for thousands of products in a multimedia form.
    The technologies are here, all we need to do is digest them quantumly, and let go of our past dreams.

  4. grom March 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    to Hacker
    And that if Greenpeace gets hold of rights? ;)

  5. Hacker March 30, 2011 at 7:02 am

    I just hope oil companies do not get a hold of the rights to distribute or control any aspect of Nocera’s leaf. If they do! they will sit on and find a way to kill it.

  6. otheus March 29, 2011 at 6:58 am

    He announced this in May 2008. http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21536/

  7. ryan harrigan March 28, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Wow, a design that creates energy AND splits water into Hydrogen and Oxygen.

    … Honda’s Fuel Cell car creates energy by FUSING Hydrogen and Oxygen and emits water as exhaust.

    This means we can power a vehicle with a bucket of water, this low cost (and x10 more efficient) leaf, and the sun. This demonstrates that sustainability and renewable energy seems to be within reach.

    What will further research discover?

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