Scientist Dr. Daniel 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.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

Dr. David Nocera, Photosynthesis, artificial photosynthesis, solar cell, solar power, American Chemical Society, Department of Energy, ARPA-E, artificial leaf, renewable energy, green energy 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