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article imageArtificial leaf used to produce energy from dirty water

By Tim Sandle     Apr 18, 2013 in Environment
Scientists have created an "artificial leaf," a device designed to provide people in developing countries and remote areas with electricity.
Scientists have created a simple looking device: catalyst-coated wafer of silicon. What is special about the "leaf" is that it mimics the ability of real leaves to produce energy from sunlight and water.
According to a research brief, when the leaf is 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 then be collected and used as fuel to produce electricity in fuel cells.
It appears, Gizmag states, that there is a risk that bacteria can build up on the leaf’s surface and stop the energy production process. For this reason previous versions of the device required pure water. However, the team went on to find certain catalysts that can actually heal themselves, meaning the process can work with dirty water.
The research indicates that, using the leaf, less than one quart of drinking water, for instance, would be enough to provide about 100 watts of electricity 24 hours a day. The leaf has advantages over solar panels, which are costly and produce energy only during daylight hours.
The object of the research is to find a means to provide electricity to individual homes in areas that lack traditional electric power generating stations and electric transmission lines.
The leaf was designed by a research team led by Daniel G. Nocera, Ph.D. Nocera is the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University.
The design was presented at the recent 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. The research has also been published in the journal Accounts of Chemical Research.
More about Electricity, Energy, Water, Leaf, Photosynthesis
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