'Artificial Leaf' May Power Civilization Using Photosynthesis


Recommended Posts

Imagine an artificial leaf that mimics photosynthesis, which lets plants harness energy from the sun. But this leaf would have the ability to power your homes and cars with clean energy using only sunlight and water.

This is not some far-off idea of the future. It's reality, and the subject of a jury-prize-winning film in the GE Focus Forward Film Competition.

Jared P. Scott and Kelly Nyks' short film, " The Artificial Leaf," showcases chemist Daniel Nocera, the inventor of the artificial leaf, a device that he says can power the world.

"The truth is stranger than fiction," Kelly Nyks, a partner at PF Pictures, told ABC News. "What I think is so exciting is that Dan has taken this science and applied it in a way that makes bringing it to scale to solve the energy crisis for the planet real and possible."

Nocera's leaf is simply a silicon wafer coated with catalysts that use sunlight to split water to into hydrogen and oxygen components.

"Essentially, it mimics photosynthesis," Nocera told ABC News.

The gases that bubble up from the water can be turned into a fuel to produce electricity in the form of fuel cells. The device may sound like science fiction fantasy, but Nocera said he hopes one day it will provide an alternative to the centralized energy system - the grid.

Worldwide, more than 1.6 billion people live without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people live without access to clean sources of fuel for cooking.

"This is the model: We're going to have a very distributed energy system," Nocera told ABC News. With the leaf, "using just sunlight and water, you can be off the grid. If you're poor, you don't have a grid, so this gives them a way to have energy in the day and at night."

With just the artificial leaf, 1.5 bottles of drinking water and sunlight, you could have enough electricity to power a small home, but the cost is still a problem, though Nocera said he believes that will come down with time and research.

The artificial leaf is cheaper than solar panels but still expensive. Hydrogen from a solar panel and electrolysis unit can currently be made for about $7 per kilogram; the artificial leaf would come in at $6.50.

Nocera is looking for ways to drive down the costs make these devices more widely available. He recently replaced the platinum catalyst that produces hydrogen gas with a less-expensive nickel-molybdenum-zinc compound. He's also looking for ways to reduce the amount of silicon needed.

In 2009, Nocera's artificial leaf was selected as a recipient of funding by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), which supports energy technologies that could create a more secure and affordable American future.

Nyks and Scott said they hope "The Artificial Leaf" will bring awareness to the public that sustainable energy solutions do exist.

"We make films for social action," Scott, also a partner at PF Pictures, told ABC News. "We see films as a tool for social change. And what I think Dan sketches out is that we start with energy. And if we solve the energy crisis, we'll solve the climate crisis, and then we'll solve the water crisis, and then we'll solve the food crisis. But it starts with energy."

The directors were one of 30 filmmaking teams asked to make a movie that could highlight an innovation that could change the world as part of GE Focus Forward, a series of three-minute films created by award-winning documentary makers including Alex Gibney, Lucy Walker, Albert Maysles and Morgan Spurlock.

Anyone with an Internet connection has access to the videos online. The winning entries are featured at focusforwardfilms.com.

So far, total media impressions for GE Focus Forward have exceeded 1.5 billion. In addition, the films are screening at all the major film festivals around the world and have played on every continent, including Antarctica.

Nyks and Scott said they hope to take the success of the short and turn it into a feature-length documentary.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

There may be none at the moment. There's some things to consider:

* Oxygen and especially hydrogen are volatile, not easy to store and transport

* Anything else than distilled and filtered water will slowly but surely damage the device

* If one has no access to clean freshwater which is a commodity where things like these actually matters, he's still screwed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

CO2: atmospheric (Earth or Mars

H2: output of solar leaf

O2: output of solar leaf (easily stowable)

CO2 + 4H2 ? CH4 + 2H2O (Sabatier process)

End products: easily stored methane (fuel), oxygen (breathing, other reactions or rocket oxidizer), and water (drinking, hydroponic agriculture, whatever including going back through the leaf again.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Similar Content

    • By Ather Fawaz
      Amazon follows suit after Walmart in complaining of Tesla's fiery solar panels
      by Ather Fawaz

      Tesla, the American automotive and energy company, is not having the best of months. Earlier this week on Tuesday, Walmart filed a lawsuit against the company accusing it of providing faulty solar panels after some of its solar panel installations caught fire. Following suit, Amazon has also complained of fires, slamming Tesla's solar panel installations and announcing that it will not be installing Tesla systems in the future (via Bloomberg).

      Amazon claimed that a Tesla solar panel system installed by SolarCity at an Amazon warehouse in Redlands, California caught fire in June 2018. On the other hand, Walmart's plight was worse and it blamed Tesla's unreliable solar panel installations after they led to fires in more than six warehouses of the multinational retail corporation.

      These criticisms come hot on the heels of Tesla hoping to relaunch its solar-panel business with revised rates and new rental options. Needless to say, these grievances do not bode well for the company's aspirations to rejuvenate its deleterious business in renewable energy.

      Tesla has tried to respond to the criticism. The company recently claimed that a part known as the 'connector' manufactured by Amphenol Corp. in its solar panel system has previously failed Tesla's quality standards after showcasing frequent disconnections and malfunctions. It is unclear however whether this part was the culprit behind Walmart and Amazon's fire complaints. Furthermore, Tesla and Walmart issued a joint statement on Thursday saying, "Both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely."

    • By Stergios Georgopoulos
      Tesla relaunches its solar-panel business with new rental options
      by Stergios Georgopoulos

      Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in a series of tweets the relaunch of its solar panel division, which now includes three new no-contract rental packages. Since acquiring SolarCity for $2.6 billion in 2016, Tesla has made several strategic changes which resulted in the company losing market share. It ended the deal with Home Depot, halted door-to-door sales, and focused on direct sales in its retail stores and online instead of leasing equipment.

      Hoping to revitalize its struggling solar power business, Musk announced today that the company is returning to a rental model that includes no upfront costs. There are three new system sizes that customers can choose from. The small panel array is 3.8 kW and costs $7,049, the medium is 7.6 kW and costs $14,098, and the large option includes a 11.4 kW system and has a price tag of $21,147.

      Customers have the option to rent their preferred system for a monthly payment that includes installation costs as well as support and maintenance. They also have the ability to cancel the contract at any time, though they have to pay $1,500 if they want to have the system removed from their rooftop. Tesla says it makes no profit from uninstalling the panels.

      For now, the rental option is available to residents in six states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico. Additionally, Musk said that Tesla Solar will be available to customers in Europe some time next year.

    • By Jim K
      ...video quality is stunning.
    • By Zathras5
      AI documentary....
      Watch for free until Sunday night,
      I haven't watched yet but looks interesting...
    • By zikalify
      Tesla is helping build world's largest 'virtual power plant' in Australia
      by Paul Hill

      Tesla will work with the state of South Australia in order to further bolster energy security. The deal involves creating a network of 50,000 home solar systems which include Tesla Powerwall batteries; what’s being dubbed as the world’s largest ‘virtual power plant’ is expected to lower energy bills by 30%.

      In the announcement, the South Australia government said:

      At the moment, the government is requesting those who are interested to sign up in the trial programme, though it is limited to just over 1,000 government housing properties. The trial will be funded by a $2 million grant and a $30 million loan from the Renewable Technology Fund, covering the costs for participants who won't have to pay a penny. They will receive a 5kW solar panel system and a 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery.

      The news comes on the back of Tesla building a huge battery farm in South Australia which can power 30,000 homes for more than one hour. Its purpose is to support the state's energy grid which gets 40% of its electricity from wind energy. The state's grid has suffered a number of blackouts and rising energy prices, so hopefully, Tesla's newly installed batteries will keep the grid stabilised in future.

      Source: Our Energy Plan, Government of South Australia via Reuters