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How an artificial leaf can solve power crisis!

Last updated on: March 29, 2011 15:50 IST

How an artificial leaf can solve power crisis!

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Scientists have created the world's first practical artificial leaf that can turn sunlight and water into energy, which they claim could pave the way for a cheaper source of power in developing countries like India.

A team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says that the artificial leaf from silicon, electronics and various catalysts which spur chemical reactions within the device, can use sunlight to break water into hydrogen and oxygen which can then be used to create electricity in a separate fuel cell.

PTI & AGENCIES

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Image: Power crisis in India.

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The Tata Group has joined hands with MIT on the ambitious mission, to make power from water. It has invested millions of dollars in this project. The product is slated to hit the market after 18 months.

Sun Catalytix's prototype can split hydrogen from any source of water, be it river water, sea water or even human waste.

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Image: Sun Catalytix's prototype.

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A bottle of water could be used to power a small house if this mission becomes a reality. Waste water can also be used for this purpose.

MIT scientist Daniel Nocera, founder of SunCatalytix is leading the team on this innovative and transformational idea.

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Image: MIT scientist Daniel Nocera.

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Ratan Tata has earlier expressed his desire to build a car that runs on water. He has already invested $15 million for supporting research in the field.

"A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades. We believe we have done it. And placed in a gallon of water and left in sun, these artificial leaves could provide a home in the developing world with basic electricity for a day," Daniel Nocera, who led the team, said.

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Image: Ratan Tata.

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He added: "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."

For their research, the scientists identified a set of inexpensive, common catalysts including nickel and cobalt that get the job done with far less expense.

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Image: Water power.

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 Though in the laboratory their playing-card-sized leaves have worked continuously for 45 straight hours without any drop in output, the scientists say that they will next try to boost both efficiency and lifespan of their photosynthetic material.

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Image: Daniel Neocera.

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The findings were presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

According to Neocera, a swimming pool-sized container could provide electricity for the entire planet.

Sun Catalytix is an early-stage renewable energy startup founded by Professor Daniel Nocera at MIT.

"With nature as our inspiration, we seek to combine sunlight and water to provide affordable, highly distributed solar energy to the individual," says the company.

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Image: A swimming pool-sized container could provide electricity for the entire planet.

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The elemental components of just 3 gallons of water have enough energy, when recombined, to satisfy the daily energy needs of a large American home.

The US receives 500-fold more energy each year than it uses, but unfortunately the sun shines only half the time.


Image: An answer to power crisis.

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