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New artificial leaf can produce 80x more hydrogen!

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posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 11:52 AM
I just spotted this story while browsing the web today and thought ATS would like to see it.

NewScientist Article

Artificial Inorganic Leaf (AIL)

Researchers at Shanghai Jiaotong University in China have been working with leaf structures to better understand the process in order to replicate a man-made version of the leaf that could be adapted to do the inverse -- splitting water to make hydrogen fuel -- using a typical photocatalyst like Titanium Dioxide (one of the most abundant minerals on earth). By "biotemplating" the Titanium Dioxide to mimic the light harvesting structures of the leaf (and adding platinum nanoparticles to magnify the effect) the research team was able to get 80x the efficiency of current technologies for producing hydrogen gas.

Very optimistic that they have found a way to get an 80x efficiency over previous methods of harvesting hydrogen! I believe we will be seeing more and more technology that mimics nature, or better yet, optimizes it!

The lead researcher on the team, Tongxiang Fan:

Our results may represent an important first step towards the design of novel artificial solar energy transduction systems based on natural paradigms, particularly based on exploring and mimicking the structural design. Nature still has much to teach us, and human ingenuity can modify the principles of natural systems for enhanced utility.

How the Leaf is made

Fan and his colleagues used several types of leaves as a template, including the grape-leaved anemone (Anemone vitifolia). First, they treated the leaves with dilute hydrochloric acid, allowing them to replace magnesium atoms - which form a crucial part of plants' photosynthetic machinery - with titanium (see illustration).

Then they dried the leaves and heated them to 500 °C to burn away most of the remaining plant material. This left a crystallise_javascript:gvid()d titanium dioxide framework plus many of the leaves' natural structures. Titanium dioxide is commonly used in solar cells to enhance their efficiency, and in the leaf it catalyses the splitting of water molecules.

Unfortunately the picture provided is very low quality

This video is from Discovery and talks about research into AIL

And this

This picture is from another project at Berkely - turning light into liquid fuels but it can give you a visual idea of the process.

Under the fuel through artificial photosynthesis scenario, nanotubes embedded within a membrane would act like green leaves, using incident solar radiation (Hγ) to split water molecules (H2O), freeing up electrons and oxygen (O2) that then react with carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce a fuel, shown here as methanol (CH3OH). The result is a renewable green energy source that also helps scrub the atmosphere of excessive carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. (Illustration by Flavio Robles, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs)

For those of you who are interested in Technology that mimics nature, here are some more videos.

This is an excellent 20 minute lecture given at the TED talks by Janine Benyus.
12 sustainable design ideas from nature

Robert Full: How engineers learn from evolution

If you enjoy this thread, visit my Nanotechnology one if you haven't yet.

[edit on 3/28/2010 by VonDoomen]

posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 01:18 PM
I have posted this before. However you present the info a lot better then I did. S&F

Do you think this extra 80 % would make a hydrogen based energy . really take place as a standard ?

[edit on 28-3-2010 by Sinter Klaas]

posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 01:31 PM
reply to post by Sinter Klaas

I searched for this but never found anything!

Also, the technology showed an increase of 80X efficiency than previous methods, not 80%.

Althought I dont know enough to say wether or not this is "the" hydrogen technology, it certainly shows an improvement over traditional methods. On top of that, its using designs from nature, so I believe it could be used cheeply and more efficiently than our current methods of energy production. Whether or not big oil gets in the way is out of our hands!

Lets hope for the best!

posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 01:56 PM
reply to post by VonDoomen

The thread I made was a little more about hydrogen energy then it was specific on the leafs. There are some interesting answers to my question.

You can read them right here Hydrogen energy ( waste energy creates energy)

I miss read the % X part. My bad.

posted on Mar, 28 2010 @ 09:09 PM
That sounds cool and actually somewhat promising. I wonder if the X80 is in reference to the membranes used in current hydrogen fuel cells. The entire problem with using hydrogen for power is that it requires energy to split the water molecule, so if this can do it without any extra needed power, it would be a boon for the technology.

As a side note, titanium dioxide is used to make both latex paint and candycanes white.

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