The Artificial Leaf
The idea about artificial photosynthesis began in 1912 and was introduced by Giacomo
Ciamician an Italian chemist. He advocated for abandoning fossil fuels to the use of this
technology, to eliminate pollution. The artificial photosynthesis generates energy through the
photocatalytic splitting of water molecules using solar light. Hydrogen is also collected as fuel
during the process. Hydrogen is collected from the process of protons reacting with carbon
dioxide in the presence of a catalyst.
The artificial leaf is designed mainly using solar cells made from silicon, which produce
energy used in the photocatalystic splitting of water. It has the photocatalytic materials attached
onto its two sides. Other materials making the leaf include nickel, cobalt and silicon. The leaf
also contains a sheet of silicon, which is usually thin and a good semiconductor of electricity. A
cobalt catalyst is then bound on the silicon sheet, which releases oxygen from water. An alloy of
nickel-molybdenum and zinc is then coated on the other side of the sheet. This helps to release
hydrogen molecules in the water.
One of the advantages of this leaf is that it uses solar energy, which can be harnessed and
stored for future use. Another advantage of this leaf is that it requires cheap materials to make
and is also very portable. It is also advantageous that the leaf uses carbon-free raw materials and
loses very little energy to the environment during production.
On the other hand, one of the disadvantages of the leaf is that the material used is easily
corroded away when exposed to water. Hydrogen catalysts also interfere with the process,
making it inefficient. Apart from that, there is a high chance of photo-damage to the components
of the machine, making it unreliable. The current cost estimations also make it more costly as
compared with fossil fuels.
This field is rapidly expanding, beyond mere production of clean energy sources. It is
being incorporated in other industries and scientific fields such as production of chemicals and
alcohol. The diminishing fossil fuel resources also gives the artificial...