Artificial Leaf for Hydrogen Fuel


Leaves harness the power of sunlight for photosynthesis, turning water into hydrogen and oxygen. Arizona State University scientists, along with colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory, have reported designing an artificial leaf that uses solar energy to convert water cheaply and efficiently into hydrogen and oxygen.

This process has two steps; the first step is fast one where light energy is converted to chemical energy, and the second step is slower one where the chemical energy is used to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The artificial leaf is not yet able to produce mass amounts of energy, but it is one step closer to producing sustainable and carbon-neutral fuels. This technology is important as it can sustainably harness the solar energy needed to meet the increasing demands of food, fuel and fiber.

Veteran chemist and head of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, C.N.R. Rao, who was recently conferred the Bharat Ratna, is also working on similar technology of artificial photosynthesis to produce hydrogen fuel.

Hydogen as Fuel

Society is constantly searching for cheap, efficient and economical sources of energy. Hydrogen is one of the most apparent and reliable of these sources. It is an eco-friendly fuel, which can be created by breaking water down. But producing the fuel currently is not viable, more energy is needed to produce it than it gives back.

It is used to propel spacecraft, and is a potential fuel source for combustion engines and other vehicles, including commercial aircraft. Although hydrogen is abundant in our atmosphere, it is so light that it rises and is rarely found in its pure form.

[The study was published in the journal Nature Chemistry.]