May 10, 2012
Extra Credit #3: Due May 10 at 9pm.
Secrets of the First PracticalArtificial Leaf
Debut of the First PracticalArtificial Leaf
This article talks about the development of the first practical artificial leaf that is
able to mimic the process of photosynthesis and create energy. This idea of an artificial
leaf was drawn from the views of an Italian chemist who believed the most important
“guarded secret” of a plant was the process of splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen.
The artificial leaf is about the size of a poker card and consists of a sunlight collector that
is placed between two films that create oxygen and hydrogen gas. Under sunlight, the leaf
is placed into a jar of water forming bubbles that release hydrogen. This hydrogen can
then be used in fuel cells to make electricity. One of the pros of this artificial leaf is that
energy can be created in contained units that appeal more to developing places in the
world, and can be extremely resourceful in remote locations.
Earlier attempts of this development proved to not be cost-effective and were
limited by its reliance on expensive materials and manufacturing processes. But in this
newest development platinum, the metal used before in earlier attempts, was replaced by a less expensive metal, nickel-molybdenum-zinc, that serves as a catalyst to produce
hydrogen gas. Cobalt film is used for the other side of the leaf