The Artificial Leaf
November 11 2020 · 2 min read
Scientists have made plenty of progress with sustainable energy in recent years. In the past 100 years, they have tremendously worked hard for the betterment of mankind.
You might have come across artificial grass or plants but have you ever heard about an artificial leaf; a man-made leaf that undergoes the process of photosynthesis and contributes to creating a healthy atmosphere. Does that sound strange? This might seem to be impractical but inventions like artificial hearts and leaves have been made by scientists in the last decade. Although the invention opened innovative paths for plant scientists and young researchers to further add value to the work. But, questions like ‘do these artificial leaves actually put in to create a fine, natural, and healthy environment?’ ‘Are these leaves functionally useful?’ still have huge question marks at the end. Are you avid about knowing the mechanism of photosynthesis and pondering on how these biological processes take place in an artificial leaf? Curious to know how these leaves grow and how they have evolved? If you say yes, here you go. The first man-made leaf!!
In the year 2011, Daniel Nocera, and his colleagues came up with the invention of an artificial leaf. The artificial leaf is a silicon-based device coated in chemical catalysts that speed up the water-splitting reaction. It is a material that encloses chloroplasts extracted from plant cells and is suspended in silk protein. As solar energy/light hits the chip, a chemical process similar to photosynthesis takes place. Hydrogen and oxygen in water split apart, resulting in the separation of protons and electrons. After being captured on the chip, protons and electrons are recombined and forms hydrogen gas. This gas can be used for the immediate generation of electricity or can be stored too. Hydrogen energy is produced as a result, in a clean way, leaving no pollutants and toxins. In the nutshell, these artificial leave generate oxygen from water and light.
The clear and clean production of hydrogen through the artificial leaves is considered an alternative form of energy with no emission of harmful substances into the environment and no pollutants. Significant Challenges for artificial leaf technology keeps growing. To prove the efficiency of the artificial plants, further research and work are required. Initially, the artificial leaf captured only 4.7% of the total possible hydrogen fuel from solar energy. With time, progression in the field of technology and advancement has been obtained to improve the efficiency of the artificial leaf up to 10%.