The artificial leaf, an innovation from Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy Daniel Nocera and Elliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology Pamela Silver, promises to transform the world of energy technology. In fact, Scientific American and the World Economic Forum have named the artificial leaf one of the breakthrough technologies of 2017, a confirmation of the project's widespread potential impact.
Nocera and Silver's artificial leaf replicates photosynthesis, the process through which a leaf converts carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into energy. But, their artificial leaf improves upon nature's model. For one, it converts excess carbon dioxide from our atmosphere into usable energy. A plant, at its peak efficiency, converts 1% of sunlight into food. When using pure carbon dioxide, Nocera and Silver managed to achieve an efficiency of 10%. In addition, the energy their leaf generates can be stored for later use. And finally, when Nocera replaced the bacterium used in the artificial leaf with another, it produced nitrogen-based fertilizer, a valuable by-product for users in nutrient-deficient climates.
With its eco-friendly, transportable, and economical design, the artificial leaf easily earns its status as a 2017 breakthrough technology.
Learn more about the Artificial Leaf
"Artificial leaves hold the promise of a clean energy future," The Financial Times, July 5, 2017
"Genetically engineered microbes make their own fertilizer, could feed the world’s poorest," Science, April 4, 2017