Global Energy Watch reports that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an “artificial leaf” that converts sunlight into a chemical fuel that could be stored and used later.

When placed in a container of water, the silicon solar cell — with catalytic materials on each side — generates oxygen bubbles on one side and hydrogen bubbles on the other, which can be separated and collected.

The gases could then be fed into a fuel cell that recombines them into water while producing an electric current.

Lead researcher Daniel Nocera says the leaf is made of abundant, inexpensive materials.   He said: “You can’t get more portable, you don’t need wires, its lightweight, and it doesn’t require much in the way of additional equipment, other than a way of catching and storing the gases that bubble off.”

However, the process cannot be commercialized until systems are developed that can collect, store and use the gases.

See also Artificial Photosynthesizers Render Plants Obsolete at PC World.

Tags: , , , ,