Artificial leaf could unlock the future of alternative energy

Artificial leaf could unlock the future of alternative energy

October 18, 2011 0 By Jake Banks

Late last year, a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) successfully developed an artificial leaf that could perfectly replicate the process of photosynthesis.

The leaf was hailed as a major scientific breakthrough likened to the discovery of the fabled Holy Grail. Adding to the leaf’s astonishing features was its ability to produce energy through photosynthesis which could be used for other purposes. Now, scientists from MIT are embarking on a new endeavor to test the capabilities of the leaf.

The leaf is made of silicon and cobalt-based catalytic materials and functions much the same way a solar panel does. When submerged in water, the leaf can absorb light and convert it into electricity, which then allows the catalytic properties of the leaf to convert water into hydrogen.

The hydrogen gas generated from the leaf can be funneled into a fuel cell where it can be used to produce more electricity.

Researchers have begun testing the capabilities of the leaf and how much electricity it can produce. Thus far, the results have been positive, showing that a single leaf could be enough to generate enough electricity to light a decently sized room. Researchers speculate that a grouping of leaves – a tree of sorts – could generate enough electricity to meet the energy demands of a modern household. While this possible future may be decades away, researchers are hopeful that the artificial leaf could be the dawning of an energy revolution.

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