2014-03-29. The Artificial Leaf Is Here. Again.

posted Mar 30, 2014, 1:43 PM by Alan Gould
For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: ...Daniel Nocera...Harvard chemist has pioneered the artificial leaf, an invention that generates energy...based on photosynthesis. ...A vessel of water is exposed to light. A silicon strip coated in catalysts breaks down the water molecule such that on one side oxygen bubbles up, and, on the other, hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel.  ...The leaf and its technology have been replicated many times, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Wisconsin and Free University Berlin... the issue isn’t the invention at all — it’s how to use it. “If I give you a canister of hydrogen that we got from the artificial leaf, you can’t use it right away,” Mr. Nocera said. ...Discovering a brilliant way to efficiently generate hydrogen is hard enough. Then there’s ... getting consumers accustomed to what’s needed for it to work, such as fuel cells — which convert hydrogen into usable electricity. ...You have to change an entire infrastructure.... If we had fuel cells in your house and your car, then everybody would be trying to implement the artificial leaf right now.” The other obstacle is the marketplace. Only a few years ago, he said, “the magic number was $3 ‘gas gallon equivalent.’ ” ...Even as he closed in on that number, the old fossil-fuel industry pulled the rug out from under him with a surge in cheap natural-gas extraction, driven by hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Seemingly overnight, the magic number became “a buck fifty,”....  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/technology/the-artificial-leaf-is-here-again.html. Jack Hitt, New York Times.
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