Daniel Nocera ponders the artificial leaf: "Nocera’s leaf is simply a silicon wafer coated with catalysts that use sunlight to split water to into hydrogen and oxygen components." Image Source: PF Pictures via ABC News.
BBC reports on how a Harvard / former MIT chemist has created an artificial leaf which uses solar power to create hydrogen fuel to generate electricity:
Imagine if you could draw energy from almost unlimited sources found in nature – water and light. That’s one possibility if Harvard professor Daniel Nocera’s idea for a device that can harness and store energy from the Sun comes to fruition.
Adam Shaw travels to Boston to meet Nocera who has developed an artificial leaf that replicates photosynthesis. Silicon wafers are coated on each side with a different catalyst – one side produces hydrogen, the other produces oxygen. A barrier between them allows the gases to be collected separately, and stored in a fuel cell that generates electricity.
The catalysts are cheap, earth-abundant materials and form by self-assembly, which should make manufacture cheaper. The challenge is overcoming the high engineering costs needed for the light-harvesting infrastructure to make it commercially scalable. If this can be overcome, this small piece of technology could have enormous potential.
Nocera asks Harvard students to start a "new epoch of humankind," which he calls the Sustainocene. He tells them that the world is out of balance: "You can't ... have environmental integrity or ecological sustainability if you have a big divide between the poor, the have nots, and the rich, the haves." He claims our culture - due to the energy crisis - is exhibiting
"gross societal imbalances and poverty, that's also a world out of balance, the haves and the have nots. And I'm here to tell you tonight, the haves - I don't care about anymore ... because you guys aren't going to make a difference. It's all these silent voices that we don't hear anymore. And you're going to have to get them in balance with us. And that's what the Sustainocene seeks to do. And it's to do that by looking at the energy, food and water problem."
See Nocera explaining his new energy system below the jump.
Video Source: Harvard University via Youtube.
Caption for the above video: "Artificial Leaf Inventor and Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy Daniel Nocera. Daniel G. Nocera is the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University. He recently accomplished a solar fuels process that captures the basic elements of photosynthesis and he has translated this science to create the artificial leaf. This discovery sets the stage for a storage mechanism for the large scale, distributed, deployment of solar energy. Time Magazine named his artificial leaf as the Innovation of the Year for 2011. He was named as 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine and was 11th on the New Statesman's list on the same topic. Nocera is a frequent guest on TV, he is regularly featured in print and he was in the feature length film Cool It, which premiered in the U.S. in November 2010. His 2006 PBS show was nominated for an Emmy Award, and it was used as a pilot to launch the PBS NOVA show, ScienceNow. In 2008, he founded Sun Catalytix to bring personalized energy to the non-legacy world."
The Sustainocene: era of personalized energy: Daniel Nocera: TED talk. Video Source: TED via Youtube.
Caption for the above video: "Daniel G. Nocera is the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University. Before joining Harvard, Nocera was on the faculty of MIT where he was the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy. He is widely recognized in the world as a leading researcher in renewable energy at the molecular level. He has recently accomplished a solar fuels process that captures many of the elements of photosynthesis and he has now translated this science to produce the artificial leaf (Innovation of the Year for 2011, Time Magazine). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Indian Academy of Sciences. He was named as 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine. A new epoch, characterized by ecological, environmental integrity and economic balance might be possible through a decentralized carbon-neutral energy system. Daniel Nocera describes his incredible discovery: how to emulate photosynthesis, to store energy in water splitting and meet future global energy needs.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized."