When it comes to energy efficiency, plants have been masters since the beginning of time. In fact, plants could very well be the definition of energy efficiency – they convert water and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen. They’re fully functional, living beings without and improve our ecosystem in one fell swoop. Thankfully, scientists have been looking to plants for ways to mimic their energy efficiency for quite some time now.
They’re doing this by creating artificial leaves that convert water and sunlight into hydrogen and oxygen. With the help of some electrical currents running through the water, this leads to the production of hydrogen that can be used to make fuel. It sounds a little crazy, but the process just might work. When artificial leaves were first introduced, they had an energy efficiency rating of 18%. Now, however, scientists in Melbourne have brought this up to 22%.
There’s certainly a long way to go, but it’s a step in the right direction. If artificial leaves can be made to produce fuel without creating waste, they could reasonably replace the need for fossil fuels and nuclear power. In fact, we might even see entire forests of artificial leaves powering homes and cars. We already have cars that use fuel cell electric engines, and these engines can easily be powered by hydrogen produced by artificial leaves. If scientists can figure out a way to make artificial leaves energy efficient, they’ve provided the 21st century with the ultimate sustainable fuel.
Read more about artificial leaves and their progress in Energy & Environmental Science. http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2014/ee/c5ee02214b#!divAbstract