Artificial leaf harnesses solar energy to produce hydrogen fuel

March 11, 2014 0 By John Max

Researchers work to develop a new artificial leaf that is cost effective and efficient

Solar Energy Research and Hydrogen FuelResearchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are working to develop a new artificial leaf that may be able to convert solar power into fuel with a high energy density. Artificial leaves have become quite popular in the scientific community as they provide a way to effectively mimic the process of photosynthesis. Mimicking this natural process is often cited as a major scientific breakthrough and a stepping stone toward a future where renewable energy is more efficiently produced and used.

Leaf can use solar power to produce hydrogen gas

The artificial leaf from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is designed to capture sunlight and produce electrical power. This electricity is then used to produce hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is becoming a very popular form of energy, especially when it comes to clean transportation, but the hydrogen produced by the artificial leaf will act as a storage medium. The leaf is meant to store solar energy as hydrogen, which can be used later to produce electricity.

Researchers aim to make a cost effective energy production system

The research team has focused on using materials that are both cost effective and capable of producing efficient chemical reactions. When it comes to renewable energy and storage, cost is often a challenge that is difficult to overcome. If costs are too high, clean energy loses traction with those that would support it. Because of the expensive nature of clean technology and energy research, progress toward making clean power more affordable and efficient has been slow.

Energy storage remains a costly and problematic issue

Solar power and hydrogen fuel may go hand-in-hand. Most conventional methods of producing hydrogen are based on the use of fossil-fuels. This makes hydrogen somewhat unattractive to those interested in renewable energy. By tapping into the power of sunlight, producing hydrogen becomes more environmentally friendly while also becoming more cost effective. It may be years before the artificial leaf developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory sees any practical use, but it has provided researchers some insight into the problems facing efficient energy production and storage.