‘Artificial leaf’ gains the ability to produce energy from dirty water

Another innovative feature has been added to the world’s first practical “artificial leaf,” making the device even more suitable for providing people in developing countries and remote areas with electricity. It gives the leaf the ability to self-heal damage that occurs during production of energy.

Daniel G. Nocera, Ph.D., described the advance during the “Kavli Foundation Innovations in Chemistry Lecture” at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

Nocera, leader of the research team, explained that the “leaf” mimics the ability of real leaves to produce energy from sunlight and water. The device, however, actually is a simple catalyst-coated wafer of silicon, rather than a complicated reproduction of the photosynthesis mechanism in real leaves. Dropped into a jar of water and exposed to sunlight, catalysts in the device break water down into its components, hydrogen and oxygen. Those gases bubble up and can be collected and used as fuel to produce electricity in fuel cells.

“Surprisingly, some of the catalysts we’ve developed for use in the artificial leaf device actually heal themselves,” Nocera said. “They are a kind of ‘living catalyst.’ This is an important innovation that eases one of the concerns about initial use of the leaf in developing countries and other remote areas.”

Nocera, who is the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, explained that the artificial leaf likely would find its first uses in providing “personalized” electricity to individual homes in areas that lack traditional electric power generating stations and electric transmission lines. Less than one quart of drinking water, for instance, would be enough to provide about 100 watts of electricity 24 hours a day. Earlier versions of the leaf required pure water, because bacteria eventually formed biofilms on the leaf’s surface, shutting down production.

“Self-healing enables the artificial leaf to run on the impure, bacteria-contaminated water found in nature,” Nocera said. “We figured out a way to tweak the conditions so that part of the catalyst falls apart, denying bacteria the smooth surface needed to form a biofilm. Then the catalyst can heal and re-assemble.”

Nocera said that about 3 billion people today live in areas that lack access to traditional electric production and distribution systems. That population will grow by billions in the decades ahead. About 1 billion people in the developing world already lack reliable access to clean water. Thus, a clear need exists for a simple device like the artificial leaf that’s compatible with local conditions.

“It’s kind of like providing ‘fast-food energy,'” he 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.”

Earlier devices used rare, costly metals and other materials, involved complicated wiring and were expensive to manufacture. But Nocera’s artificial leaf uses less-expensive materials and incorporates a design—a so-called “buried junction”—that is simple and would be inexpensive to mass produce. And the leaf has advantages over solar panels, which are costly and produce energy only during daylight hours. The leaf’s hydrogen and oxygen, in contrast, can be stored and used at night.

“A lot of people are designing complicated, expensive energy-producing devices, and it is difficult to see them being adopted on a large scale,” he said. “Ours is simple, less expensive, and it works. And with that, I think we’ve changed the dialog in the field.”

Among the team’s priorities for further development of the device: integrating it with technology for converting the hydrogen into a liquid fuel that could run traditional portable electric generators or even cars.

Sponsored by The Kavli Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports basic scientific research, Nocera’s talk is part of a series of designed to address the urgent need for vigorous, “outside the box” thinking by scientists as they tackle the world’s mounting challenges, including climate change, emerging diseases and water and energy shortages.

“We are dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research and supporting scientists and their work,” said Kavli Foundation President Robert W. Conn in a statement. “The Kavli Foundation Innovations in Chemistry Lecture program at the ACS national meetings fits perfectly with our commitment to support groundbreaking discovery and promote public understanding.”

The Kavli lectures debuted at the Anaheim meeting in March 2011 and will continue through 2013. They will address the urgent need for vigorous, new, “outside-the-box” thinking, as scientists tackle many of the world’s mounting challenges like climate change, emerging diseases and water and energy shortages. The Kavli Foundation, an internationally recognized philanthropic organization known for its support of basic scientific innovation, agreed to sponsor the lectures in conjunction with ACS in 2010.
[divider]

Source | Phys

Find us here

Get news from the CSGLOBE in your inbox each weekday morning

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

Paid content

The 10 Biggest Dangers Posed By Future Technology

It’s not easy predicting the future of technology. In the fifties it seemed a pretty much foregone conclusion that by 2015 we would all...

Careful what you say: Your Samsung TV might be listening

Samsung warns customers new Smart TVs 'listen in' on users' personal conversations Samsung has come under fire from privacy campaigners after it emerged the company’s...

Did we discover “Alien technology” and reverse-engineer it?

A lot of people have wondered ever since the first reported UFO crash, if we had come into contact with Alien technology. Highly advanced technology...

What's New Today

Georgia House Votes To Allow Citizens To Abolish Police Departments In The State

The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any...

Leaked CDC document contradicts Pence claim that U.S. coronavirus cases ‘have stabilized’

Even as Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday that coronavirus...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

MOST READ

What Is Agenda 21? Depopulation of 95% of the World By 2030

Most people are unaware that one of the greatest threats to their freedom may be a United Nations program which plans to depopulate 95%...

Complete List of BANKS Owned/Controlled by the Rothschild Family

What’s the significance of having a central bank within a country and why should you concern yourself, your family and colleagues? Central banks are illegally...

Leaked CDC document contradicts Pence claim that U.S. coronavirus cases ‘have stabilized’

Even as Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday that coronavirus...

The 10 Biggest Dangers Posed By Future Technology

It’s not easy predicting the future of technology. In the fifties it seemed a pretty much foregone conclusion that by 2015 we would all...

The ‘Shazam’ For Plants Will Identify Any Plant From A Picture

An estimated 400,000 flowering plant species exist in the world, and, understandably, it can be difficult to keep track. The vast majority of us can only recognize...

Imagine a safe welding flame using water as its only fuel

Scientists have invented a new low-cost method to create a safe welding flame using water as its only fuel Called the Safeflame, the device splits...

Russia to ban US from using Space Station

Russia will cut off US access to the International Space Station over Ukraine sanctions In retaliation for imposing sanctions, Russia will also bar it's rocket...

Did bankers Kill JFK And Abraham Lincoln? – Digging Deeper

John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln are two of history's most popular and influential U.S. presidents -- unfortunately, they were both also assassinated. Yet...

High on Health: Cannabinoids in the Food Supply

Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found within the human body. They’ve been there for 600,000 years or more, but we’ve only just noticed it!...

The Great Garbage Patch

North East of Hawaii, the ocean currents form a giant whirl pool of debris from around the Pacific, the scientific name is called the...

ALARMING NEW STUDY SUGGESTS ALL WILDERNESS ON THE PLANET COULD BE GONE BY 2100

A wilderness twice the size of Alaska has been demolished by modern day practices in less than two decades. That’s 3.3 million kilometers, or...