Economics Science Technology

The Artificial Leaf: Better Than Nature and Could Power The World?

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Scientists had split water before. By 1870, electrolysis using platinum electrodes and vast electrical currents could achieve the feat.
In the 20th century, too, simpler methods had been developed which used sunlight to power the reaction — but these, too, relied on prohibitively costly metals.

But Professor Daniel Nocera’s “artificial leaf” is different.

On either side, the silicone strip is coated with inexpensive metallic compounds — a cobalt phosphate catalyst that spurs the creation of oxygen gas, and a nickel-zinc alloy that does the same for hydrogen. The process only uses as much energy as it can pick up from sunlight: in the lab, Nocera flicks off the light, and the bubbles disappear.
The reaction was inefficient when first demonstrated in 2008 — with little of the sunlight being locked up in the fuels — but today it beats nature at its own game.

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“The Artificial Leaf: Better Than Nature and Could Power The World?”