Harvard develops new, highly efficient artificial leafJune 8, 2016
New leaf system performs better than actual plants
Researchers from Harvard University have developed a synthetic leaf, which has shown that it can turn sunlight into electrical power more efficiently than its organic counterpart. The leaf was first showcased last year and researchers have been working to improve the synthetic system since then. The synthetic leaf highlights the capabilities of photosynthesis and how this natural process can be used to produce renewable energy in an efficient manner.
System could be used for renewable hydrogen fuel production
Harvard is not the only organization to have developed an artificial leaf. Typically, these systems involve the use of solar technologies, which are then submerged in water. While submerged, the system generates both oxygen and hydrogen, which can then be used by a fuel cell to produce yet more electrical power. As such, artificial leaves could become a very valuable tool for renewable hydrogen fuel production. This could have significant implications for the fuel cell industry as a whole, as conventional hydrogen production processes rely heavily on fossil-fuels, making fuel cell systems less attractive when compared to other renewable energy solutions.
New leaf is 10 times more efficient than the world’s fastest growing plants
According to Harvard researchers, the new artificial leaf can convert sunlight into biomass at an efficiency of 10%. While this may not sound like much, the leaf is 10 times more efficient than the world’s fastest growing plants. Unlike previous versions of the leaf system, the new leaf is also more durable, able to operate for longer periods of time. The leaf system also includes a self-healing catalyst, which will not bleed materials into the liquid solution that the system is submerged in.
Researchers continue work to mimic photosynthesis
Photosynthesis has long been the “golden standard” when it comes to efficient solar energy production. Researchers throughout the world have been working to mimic this natural process in order to make renewable energy more viable. Several organizations have successfully produced systems that can mimic photosynthesis, but it may be many years before such systems become commonplace in any part of the world.