At an American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California, MIT Professor Dr. Daniel Nocera announced that a research team had achieved a long -sought-after for goal of artificially copying photosynthesis, the process by which plants turn sunlight into energy, to create electricity easily and cheaply.
The “artificial leaf” is a thin sheet of metal, electronics and catalysts about the size of a credit card. When placed in a gallon of water in direct sunlight Nocera said this device could create enough electricity to power a home in the developing world. Nocera’s team have been able to develop a product that can be made from readily available materials — this device is uses catalysts made from nickel, silicon and cobalt which are capable of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen which can then be used to create electricity.
“A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades,” said Nocera, “We believe we have done it. The artificial leaf shows particular promise as an inexpensive source of electricity for homes of the poor in developing countries. Our goal is to make each home its own power station.”
Nocera has founded a company called Sun Catalytix which is working on the development of this technology — specifically on ways to store the power of the sun so it can be used around the clock so electricity is always available.
The Indian Tata group has recently signed an agreement with Nocera to help them commercialize this discovery.
You can see Nocera talking about his technology and Sun Catalytix here.
The ACS press release can be read here