Genesis Morocco: MIT Lab Creates the World's First Feasible 'Artificial Leaf'

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Genesis Morocco

Project Genesis is a strategic sustainable development framework for Morocco to translate from being a net importer of energy and a country facing water shortage issues, into the number one producer both of clean renewable energy and water in the region.

Monday, October 3, 2011    <<Home

MIT Lab Creates the World's First Feasible 'Artificial Leaf'

Personal Notes : This is too good to pass upon, it is precisely the kind of disruptive technologies that have the potential to change the nature of the energy game. Hydrogen production has so far been hampered by the fact that it is quite energy intensive, but things are changing fast. “A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades,” says lead researcher Daniel Nocera, who’s presenting this research at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society this week.

By Clay Dillow. Posted 03.27.2011

Today at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society researchers from MIT’s Nocera Lab, led by Dr. Daniel Nocera, claimed that they’ve created an artificial leaf made from stable and -- more importantly -- inexpensive materials. The artificial leaf looks nothing like the natural leaf that it mimics, but its inputs and outputs are the same. Made of silicon, electronics, and various catalysts that spur chemical reactions within the device, the artificial leaf uses sunlight to break water into hydrogen and oxygen which can then be used to create electricity in a separate fuel cell. Placed in a gallon of water and left in the sun, these artificial leaves could provide a home in the developing world with basic electricity for a day, Nocera said.

The Nocera Lab’s artificial leaf, it should be noted, isn’t the first working attempt at recreating photosynthesis in artificial materials. But previous attempts have led to artificial leaves full of unstable materials that are expensive and lead to short life spans. Nocera and his team identified a set of inexpensive, common catalysts including nickel and cobalt to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen by facilitating oxygen-oxygen bonding, with far less expense. Oxygen and hydrogen molecules are then sent to a fuel cell that can produce electricity. And in the lab their playing-card-sized leaves have worked continuously for 45 straight hours without a drop in output.

Nocera and company will next try to boost both efficiency and lifespan of their photosynthetic material. It’s still a workbench technology at this point, but the leap forward presented here is significant. Scaled and mass produced, something like the Nocera Lab’s leaf could be the key component to shifting toward a hydrogen-based economy. In the nearer term, such technology could at the very least power parts of the globe that are currently off the grid with clean, plentiful, and easy-to-come-by energy.

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