With the focus on clean energy continually growing, the scientific community is working relentlessly toward tapping the potential of renewable resources for fuel generation. Taking this dream of alternative sources of power a step closer to reality, Indian scientists have developed an artificial leaf that could make cars run on sunlight. The ultra-thin leaf, which mimics real plant leaves, has been designed to absorb sunlight in order to generate hydrogen fuel from water.
Researchers behind this breakthrough innovation is optimistic that this artificial leaf could pave the way for clean energy required for powering eco-friendly cars in the future.
The team of scientists at Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, has been researching possibilities for generating hydrogen through the water splitting technique for 10 years now. Their efforts have finally yielded results in form of this ultra-thin wireless leaf-like device. Chinnakonda S Gopinath, who is a senior principal scientist at the Pune-based institute, said, “It is known that hydrogen generation from renewable resources will be the ultimate solution to our energy and environment problems. Hydrogen burning gives energy and water as a side product, underscoring its importance and relevance to the present day world.”
He stressed on the relevance of such research in India, given that the country gets plenty of sunlight all year round.
The artificial leaf
The artificial leaf is fitted with semiconductors that have been arranged to mimic the system of a natural leaf. As sunlight strikes these semiconductors, electrons start to move in one direction, and in the process, produce electric current. This current then splits water into hydrogen, which is one of the cleanest forms of fuel available to mankind as of now. The process could prove to be a marked improvement on the current methods of hydrogen production, as these emit a substantial amount of CO2 in the bargain. The research was published in an online, open-access journal, Scientific Reports. The device developed at the Pune institute measures 23 square centimeters and can produce up to 6 liters of hydrogen fuel per hour. Scientists are hopeful of the scalability of this method of hydrogen production, as it works on a ‘simple and practicable’ principle.
The research has already been patented. The artificial leaf has so far only been produced in the lab. A lot more work needs to be done before it can actually be used for fueling cars. The institute is looking to partner with other organization to develop bigger variants of this device.