The artificial leaf: A scientific Holy Grail.

Scientists have been trying to replicate photosynthesis for decades.

Scientists have been trying to replicate photosynthesis for decades.

If we understand the biochemical pathway of photosynthesis, we can have a better chance to ensure our survival as a species. Scientists have been trying to understand this process for decades. An MIT professor, Dr. Daniel Nocera, claimed–in 2011–that he succesfully achieved one of the Holy Grails of science: to make a sustainable artificial leaf. The following excerpt is part of a press release that explains how this claimed artificial leaf–the size of a “poker card”–was achieved:

“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.”

The rest of the press release can be found here: MIT professor touts first ‘practical’ artificial leaf, signs deal with Tata to show up real plants. (via Engadget).

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47 thoughts on “The artificial leaf: A scientific Holy Grail.

  1. I think this post was my favorite, perhaps because it talks about something that is very important for the future of humanity and because it could be something that could fix a major problem, allowing more people to have green electricity and to able to pay less for it. I read in an article (the website is written in the details) that it is made of silicon with some catalyst put on it’s side and if put in water and exposed to sunlight it will stream bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen which could be used in different ways to create electricity.

  2. While I do believe that it is impossible to create such object no matter how much one tried it would require nuclear energy because we would be trying to replicate photosynthesis which would not only require sunlight but also carbon dioxide. We would still have to find a way to make all this technology clear and the size of a poker card.

  3. I think this is a great discovery imagine what we could do with this new technology its one of the most advanced things I’ve seen in my life

  4. People have tried and tried to come up with new ways to produce energy, but we always come back to the way nature does it. Why? I think it’s because there is no machine (and will probably never exist) than can match the efficiency of nature. Scientist have noticed that to make gadgets like these work. they have to mimic nature.

  5. It s one of the most advanced things I’ve seen so far !! it talks about something that is very important for the future of humanity and because it could be something that could help mayor problems

  6. I think this post is by far my favorite because it talkis about the Biochemical Pathway of Photosinthesis and it was a great expirence learning about it in class. :)

  7. if they were to perfect this artificial plant the possibility’s and benefits would be unsurpasible everything from cheaper living cost to space exploration would be a so much closer dream that we can achieve (in a perfect positive world) but i do not think this will ever happen at least not until someone stops oil componys and other power giants from intervening because this would put a serious dent in their wallets… another thing is that this technology even though its easier to make will still not be cheap it will not be going to poor villages in India or Africa lets not kid each other… sorry for negativity

    • I understand your lack of optimism: I share some of it. I agree that coorporations (which nowadays are very much associated with countries) will do everything in their power to halt these type of discoveries. Some oil giants are even paying scientists to do research that denies climate change.

  8. This is in some way similar to the solar panel, and I think it could work in the future if its not too expensive because people would prefer to stay how they are now than to pay a lot for the artificial leaf even when they know its better for the planet

  9. it’s pretty amazing what technology can accomplish now a days. If this works it would be amazing because it would help poorer country get electricity and we wouldn’t need to go dig up oil and pollute the environment.

  10. I believe this is a great discovery, as solar panels have help several homes this leaf will also do a similar job. This could also help the environment and the cost of the electricity.

  11. This is a great advancement it really is. This kind of discovery may help humany fix the mess they have made. This may help make more plants and even genetically alter the artificial plant to take it to another planet and make it possible for humans to live there.

    • If politicians had a fraction of the enthusiasm that this guy has about energy and sustainable technologies, we would be in a very different place today–possibly wars for oil would be absurd, instead of a “necessary evil”; just as the powerful countries want us to believe. Great video, Andrea. Thanks for sharing.

  12. With this we can create a better world not yet i believe that in the futuer this will be the key of making everything better

    • If you’re interested in alternative ways for sustainable energy, check out what scientists are doing with a substance called ‘graphene.’ I encourage you to do a brief Google search of the words «graphene» and «photons».

  13. This discovery is very nice and interesting because you can see how a artificial leave could be so heplful to the enviroment if used properly :)

    • These technologies hold the key for the survival of the human species in the next century or so. Lets hope that progress in alternative sources of energy does not get bogged down by inept politicians.

  14. I never thought a machine could ever replace our nature… for me, this descovery is an open door for a new future. If they make it, If they fully understand the biochemical pathway, things could change completely. we could have an alternative to survive.

  15. I just really hope that this leaf just works good enough but not to change our beautiful trees and plants for them. The fact that they have all ready created this scares me a bit and it makes me think of dr.seus’ movie the lorax and how i really don’t want to end up like that… I mean living with synthetic things and i mean everything like in the movie…

  16. this is indeed a great discovery ! something new to life itself, something new to me and more advanced in some aspects ! really nice

  17. With this technology, a lot of people with economical problems will have a relief, this can bring down the electricity payments.

    • Indeed. Not just cheaper energy for people that already used electricity, but cheap energy for people that have never seen an actual light bulb. The is close to a billion people around the world that do not have electricity.

  18. In the futer when most of te trees would be cut off to make more buildings this new artificial leaf cand help us keep on going

  19. This post reminded me of this article: http://www.aolnews.com/2011/03/16/need-more-air-artificial-trees-to-convert-carbon-dioxide-to-oxy/
    It states how scientists are trying to create an artificial plant that converts CO2 to O2. My only concern is that it seems that we are becoming too dependent on technology to solve issues that nature naturally solves. This technology might greatly benefit us but at some point it might replace trees in urban settings. For me, it would be a shame to see nature disappear from our daily lives.

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