First Practical Artificial Leaf Gets Spotlight

I’ve talked about the artificial leaf many times before as a novel idea in which significant amounts of hydrogen could be produced. In fact, in March of 2011, I had talked about a researcher named Daniel Nocera, Ph.D. who had created such an artificial leaf and was putting the polishing touches on it.

Today, however that leaf is polished and ready for the spotlight. Nocera and his team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created an artificial leaf using cheap and common metals plus sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

According to ACS.org, “The key to this breakthrough is Nocera’s recent discovery of several powerful new, inexpensive catalysts, made of nickel and cobalt, that are capable of efficiently splitting water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, under simple conditions. Right now, Nocera’s leaf is about 10 times more efficient at carrying out photosynthesis than a natural leaf. However, he is optimistic that he can boost the efficiency of the artificial leaf much higher in the future.”

Nocera’s idea was to use his artificial leaves in developing nations where homes are not tied to the national grid. Every home could be its own power plant. And while this is a good idea, another good idea is to use his artificial leaves in general to create hydrogen for cars, homes, fueling stations, home fueling stations and industry.

The sky’s the limit with Nocera’s artificial leaf. And when reaching for the sky, sometimes the sky reaches back.

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