Top Story: March 29, 2011

Artificial Leaf


Leaves are amazing at making clean energy. Through photosynthesis, they take energy from sunlight and water and convert it into chemical energy, or fuel for the plant. Researchers have been trying for years to make an artificial leaf—a material that will easily convert sunlight and water into energy that humans can use. As of today, they are a step closer.

Presenting at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, MIT’s Daniel Nocera, PhD, announced the first practical artificial leaf.

“A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades,” said Dr. Nocera, who led the research team. “We believe we have done it. The artificial leaf shows particular promise as an inexpensive source of electricity for homes of the poor in developing countries. Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” he said. “One can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic power system based on this technology.”

About the shape of a poker card but thinner, the device is fashioned from silicon, electronics and catalysts, substances that accelerate chemical reactions that otherwise would not occur, or would run slowly. Placed in a single gallon of water in bright sunlight, the device could produce enough electricity to supply a house in a developing country with electricity for a day. It does so by splitting water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. These two gases would then be stored in an electricity-producing fuel cell located either on top of the house or beside it.

Right now, the artificial leaf is about 10 times more efficient at carrying out photosynthesis than a natural leaf. However, Nocera is optimistic that he can boost the efficiency of the artificial leaf much higher in the future.

And that’s not all. Science Now reports:

The new catalyst also appears highly stable. Nocera says his team has been operating the device for a week, using water from the nearby Charles River in Cambridge, without any drop in efficiency. The next step is to find out whether the device works equally well in seawater. If so, it could dramatically lower the cost of producing hydrogen fuel.

Use in the real world is not so far in the future, according to Discover’s 80beats blog:

Tata Group, an Indian conglomerate, plans on creating a power plant based on this research within the next year and a half.

“Nature is powered by photosynthesis, and I think that the future world will be powered by photosynthesis as well in the form of this artificial leaf,” said Nocera.

Deal me in!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia


  • silk bamboo trees

    Dr. Nocera and team had a great research .This is the best platform that provide , announced the first practical artificial leaf. to place our views about certain issues. This is also topic of special importance that you have discussed here.

  • artificial plants

    practical synthetic leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science
    for decades,” asserted Doctor . Nocera, who led the study
    team.”We believe we have done it. The synthetic leaf shows
    particular guarantee as a cheap source of power for houses of the
    poor in developing nations. 

  • Artificial Plants

    Nice post. Here i got a scientific piece of knowledge about real & artificial plants. I never know about this before. Thanks through your post i came to know the photosynthesis process.

  • silk flower arrangements

    Artificial Plants are simply replicas of the real plants. Where these used to be referred to as fake plants, our modern technology has brought the quality of these plants to a point where one has to actually touch the plant in many cases to see if it truly is real or not.

Previous Top Stories


About Science Today

Science Today is the California Academy of Sciences’ channel for current stories on cutting-edge technologies, life, Earth, space and sustainability. Content is produced in-house and is distributed throughout the museum, on the internet and through various partners. Please share your comments on what you find important in the changing world of science.