‘Artificial Leaves’ Could Deliver Hydrogen as a Solar Fuel
An electrically conductive film developed by a team at the California Institute of Technology could eventually support production of hydrogen as a solar fuel.
“We have developed a new type of protective coating that enables a key process in the solar-driven production of fuels to be performed with record efficiency, stability, and effectiveness, in a system that is intrinsically safe and does not produce explosive mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen,” writes study co-author Prof. Nate Lewis in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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“When applied to semiconducting materials such as silicon, the nickel oxide film prevents rust buildup and facilitates an important chemical process in the solar-driven production of fuels such as methane or hydrogen,” Caltech reports.
“The development could help lead to safe, efficient artificial photosynthetic systems—also called solar-fuel generators or ‘artificial leaves’—that replicate the natural process of photosynthesis that plants use to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into oxygen and fuel in the form of carbohydrates, or sugars.”