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Showing posts from May, 2011

Freely Speaking: What is an Artificial Leaf?

It's been a while again since I last posted here. Writing my thesis and preparing for the actual defense in July are taking most of my time. However, I wanted to at least share an interesting idea I came across in the last couple of months before this month is over.

And so today, I'll write about the artificial leaf which Professor Nocera at MIT was researching. It's been all over the science news: an alloy made of nickel and cobalt acts as a catalyst to split water into hydrogen and oxygen similar to what plant leafs do when they perform photosynthesis.

After the coolness of the words "artificial leafs" wore off, I started to wonder what is so special about an artificial leaf. After all, doesn't an artificial leaf just do electrolysis? Couldn't I just achieve the same by connecting solar panels to a container with water and two electrodes?

Apparently, the answer is yes and no. By applying a current to water, electrolysis could indeed be performed produci…