When you think of solar power, anyone would automatically think of solar panels, but some people think about plants. After all, plants are the original solar power generators. They turn the sun’s rays into clean energy through the process (that we all learned in high school) of photosynthesis as shared by Inhabitat.
Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia have created a device that mimics photosynthesis artificially, producing what could be the cleanest energy on the planet. The researchers claim that their artificial leaf is even more efficient than real plants at collecting or harnessing the sun’s power and turning it into renewable and useable energy.
In a study that was published in the science journal “Energy & and Environmental Science”, the research team explains how their artificial photosynthesis machine uses electrochemical water splitting. The process uses commercially produced solar cells in generating hydrogen and oxygen by passing an electrical current through the water. The process will produce hydrogen fuel, which is a clean form of energy and there will be zero carbon emissions.
Professor Doug Macfarlane is the leader of the Energy Program of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at the Monash University. He is also one of the authors of the research. According to the professor, the artificial leaf will not look like a regular leaf. It will generate clean energy through photosynthesis at a rate of 22% energy efficiency. The previous record for such efficiency in solar fuels was 18%. Most natural plants have efficiency levels between 1%-2%, according to Prof Macfarlane.
MacFarlane and his team are not satisfied with the results though. They are continuing to work to improve the energy efficiency of the leaf. They are aiming for 30% efficiency rating. He said that his type of technology is not something that will be out on the market soon as electricity rates continue to be affordable. However, Prof MacFarlane looks forward to a time when water-splitting artificial photosynthesis machine may be installed in a home basement or a wall and give everyone access to clean energy with zero carbon emissions.