Artificial Leaf Can Now "Self Heal" Damage, Produce Energy from Dirty Water
April 9, 2013 11:03 AM
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Artificial leaf gets some new tricks to make it more functional
Scientists have created what they have called the world's first practical "artificial leaf." The goal of the leaf is to supply electricity in developing nations and remote areas without access to power.
Two important new features have been added to the artificial leaf including the ability to self-heal damage and to produce energy from dirty water. Daniel G. Nocera, Ph.D., a scientist working on the project, says that the artificial leaf mimics the ability of a real leaf to create energy from sunlight and water.
The artificial leaf actually looks nothing like a real leaf and is instead made of a catalyst-coated wafer of silicon.
Nocera's artificial leaf doesn't look like these real leaves, but it looks to mimic their self-healing properties. [Image Source: imgbase]
When the catalyst-coated wafer is dropped into a jar of water and exposed to sunlight, the catalysts in the device break water down into hydrogen and oxygen. Those gases bubble out of the water and can then be collected for use as fuel for a fuel cell to produce electricity.
"It's kind of like providing 'fast-food energy,'" Nocera noted. "We're interested in making lots of inexpensive units that may not be the most efficient, but that get the job done. It's kind of like going from huge mainframe computers to a personal laptop. This is personalized energy."
Their artificial leaf also promises to be cheaper to produce than some similar products that used costly metals and other materials. The artificial leaf is also expected to be inexpensive to mass-produce.
Researchers from North Carolina State University have also been working on
in the past.
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4/9/2013 8:52:48 PM
I think the sunlight *is* the catalyst...or maybe the energy in the sunlight simply excites a molecule on the wafer that then acts as a catalyst and can then be re-excited by more sunlight. Seems like a really cool idea.
4/10/2013 9:37:17 AM
At the risk of stating the obvious, the energy source is the big ball of nuclear fire we orbit which irradiates the entire planet with electromagmetic waves that can, through various processes, be converted into electricity.
Unfortunately, the source of the story is a lecture so I can't track down the catalyst used. The "leaf" has a catalyst surface over the silicon that self-repairs (i.e. it resists bacterial colonization when used in "dirty water" that would damage most cheap catalysts). The catalyst itself deserves its own story when more information about it can be located. It has to be self sustaining, cheap, and effective without using precious or rare earth materials.
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