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Artificial leaf

MIT scientist develops artificial solar cell leaf that can power a house for a day with a single gallon of water

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: artificial leaf, solar cell, health news

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(NaturalNews) A scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says he has successfully developed a type of synthetic leaf made largely of silicon and electronic components that is ten times more effective at photosynthesis than is a natural leaf. And this artificial leaf, he says, is capable of generating enough electricity with one gallon of water to power a house in a developing country for an entire day.

Daniel Nocera recently told attendees at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in California that when his prototype leaf is placed in a pool of water, it effectively captures sunlight and splits water into oxygen and hydrogen at ten times the rate of a natural leaf. Operating for at least a full 45 straight hours without any decline in performance, the leaf acts as a small, highly-efficient solar cell that produces energy for use in power generation.

"The artificial leaf shows particular promise as an inexpensive source of electricity for homes of the poor in developing countries," said Nocera in a statement. "Our goal is to make each home its own power station. One can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic power system based on this technology."

Reports indicate that Nocera has already made a deal with the Tata Group of India to develop a small power plant that uses the technology to distribute electricity. Within a year and a half, the power plant, which is roughly the size of a refrigerator, is set to be completed and ready to go.

Similar projects in the past that involved synthetic leaves have not been as successful as Nocera's endeavor. A Wired report explains that John Turner from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory tried to build a synthetic leaf more than a decade ago. Unlike Nocera's inexpensive leaf technology, Turner's leaf used expensive and rare metals, and it did not even last a day before degrading and losing its viability.

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