Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production generating and storing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is a key barrier to a clean-energy economy. In the following excerpt from his new book, varun sivaram, a physicist and fellow at the council on foreign relations, explores the recent progress and diverging research paths of two rival scientists determined to finally deliver and commercialize the artificial leaf: nathan lewis at caltech and daniel nocera at harvard university.
The artificial leaf by hayley bennett 28 april 2009 no comments using sunlight to split water molecules and form hydrogen fuel is one of the most promising tactics for kicking our carbon habit hayley birch examines the options.
Called “focus forward,” it promises “short films, big ideas” each of these mini-docs triumphantly chronicles an innovative idea, like daniel nocera’s this harvard chemist has pioneered the artificial leaf, an invention that generates energy more or less the way a tree does. To convert the energy of sunlight into chemical energy, the leaf splits water via the photosynthetic process to produce molecular oxygen and hydrogen, which is in a form of separated protons and electrons. The artificial leaf he developed — mimicking the process of photosynthesis in plants — will require widespread use of fuel cells if it is to become an energy source for the mass market credit.
Nocera’s artificial leaf, in its current form, is less than half as efficient as turner’s, but it’s far more durable and only a fraction as expensive earlier this year, nocera founded a company, sun catalytix, to pursue artificial photosynthesis, energy storage, and renewable fuels. The bionic leaf is one step closer to reality daniel nocera, a professor of energy science at harvard who pioneered the use of artificial photosynthesis, says that he and his colleague pamela silver have devised a system that completes the process of making liquid fuel from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water.
The artificial leaf is a thin sheet of semiconducting silicon — the material most solar cells are made of — which turns the energy of sunlight into a flow of wireless electricity within the sheet. Artificial photosynthesis is a chemical process that replicates the natural process of photosynthesis, a process that converts sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen as an imitation of a natural process it is biomimetic. The term, artificial photosynthesis, is commonly used to refer to any scheme for capturing and storing the energy from sunlight in the chemical bonds of a fuel (a solar fuel) photocatalytic water splitting converts water into hydrogen and oxygen, and is a major research topic of artificial photosynthesis.
Using sunlight to split water molecules and form hydrogen fuel is one of the most promising tactics for kicking our carbon habit hayley birch examines the options. Despite its simplicity, his artificial leaf was the culmination of 30 years of research, reaching back to his days as a graduate student at caltech having made the breakthrough, nocera set out to bring his new technology to market.
A new solar fuel generation system, or artificial leaf, developed by researchers at jcap safely creates fuel from sunlight and water with record-setting efficiency and stability. He has recently exploited catalyst discovery to design an artificial leaf, which duplicates the direct solar fuels process of photosynthesis, the splitting of water to hydrogen and oxygen using light from neutral water, at atmospheric pressure and room temperature, and under 1 sun illumination. Whenever the artificial leaf is mentioned in a newspaper article or on the web, nocera finds out almost immediately, because his e-mail and voice-mail in-boxes fill up many of the messages come from young scientists who want to study with him.