Artificial Leaf’s Self Healing Properties Makes it Practical for Use in Remote Regions

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The so-called “artificial leaf,” a solar cell being developed by MIT and Harvard scientists to produce low-cost electricity, is now capable of “self healing” the damage that occurs during energy production, clearing a hurdle to deploying the device in the developing world, scientists say.

When dipped into water, the leaf — which is actually a catalyst-coated wafer of silicon about the size of a playing card — is able to split water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be collected and used as fuel to power a fuel cell.

“Surprisingly, some of the catalysts we’ve developed for use in the artificial leaf device actually heal themselves,” Daniel Nocera of Harvard, the leader of the research team, told a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

While earlier versions of the device required pure water, the self-healing properties enable users to operate the leaf using impure, bacteria-contaminated water. According to the researchers, the leaf is now able to generate 100 watts of electricity 24 hours a day with just a quart of water.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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