Researchers at MIT have created an artificial leaf that they say can generate energy 10 times more effciently than actual plants. The tiny solar cell is also said to be made out of inexpensive materials and, with sufficient water, could power an entire house.
Dr. Daniel Nocera led a team of chemists to create a tiny solar cell that mimics and improves upon regular photosynthesis. The "leaf," which is about the size of a credit card (and looks nothing like a leaf, apparently), takes water and separates it into oxygen and hydrogen, which can then be used as an energy.
"A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades," Nocera says in a press release. "We believe we have done it."
Nocera's solar cell isn't the first artifical leaf, but it's has three things that make it stand out: it's made out of inexpensive materials that are widely available, it works simply, and its output doesn't quickly degrade. All those factors make the tech decidedly more practical than previous stabs at artificial photsyntheis power sources, and Nocera hopes his team's invention will become a go-to energy source for the third world, where it could provide a house with all-day power on just one gallon of water.