Solar Energy Product Mimics Photosynthesis to Produce Fuel
Sometimes we see in the news of an innovative solar energy product that attracts particular attention. Even though solar energy is becoming more and more commercialized, there are breakthroughs every year on new solar energy technology. Recently, a team of scientists successfully created a solar cell, which mimics photosynthesis in order to produce storable fuel. This "solar leaf" is aimed toward producing storable and clean energy by producing hydrogen and oxygen.
The technology is based on the idea that leaves harness solar power and convert it into energy through photosynthesis. The breakthrough occurred over the summer, and a report announced on the September 29 in Science Magazine that the artificial leaf functions properly. It is essentially a silicon solar cell with different materials bonded to each side that allow it to split a water molecule into oxygen and hydrogen, which can then be stored to produce energy later for such products as fuel cells.
The technology has a long way to go before becoming commercially viable, because systems to properly manipulate the gases released by the cell need to be developed. It is, however, an important breakthrough, and it has potential to be commercially viable because it is made entirely of inexpensive materials such as silicon, cobalt and nickel. Berkeley's Fleming emphasizes that "a clear framework exists for the design and synthesis of an effective antenna unit for future artificial photosynthesis systems."