CSIR scientists have developed an ultra-thin wireless device that mimics plant leaves to produce energy using water and sunlight. The artificial leaf absorbs sunlight to generate hydrogen fuel from water.
In advance, this artificial leaf may provide clean energy for powering eco-friendly cars in the future. It can serve ultimate solution for our energy and environment problems.
Need for such technology
At present, hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels by steam reforming. In this process large amount of carbon di-oxide (CO2) – a greenhouse gas is emitted which promotes global warming. So in view of pressing energy and environmental issues, it is important to produce hydrogen from natural resources such as sunlight and water. India is also blessed with plenty of sunlight throughout year that is not exploited significantly to produce energy or hydrogen.
The artificial leaf or the wireless device consists of semiconductors stacked in manner to simulate natural leaf system. The device has an area of 23 square centimetres. When visible light strikes semiconductors, electrons move in one direction and produce electric current.
The current almost instantaneously splits water into hydrogen – making it one of cleanest forms of fuel as its main byproduct is water. It can produce 6 litres of hydrogen fuel per hour.
To improve light-absorbing efficiency of artificial leaf, researchers had used gold nanoparticles, titanium dioxide and quantum dots. Quantum dots are semiconductor crystals of nanometre dimensions with properties that depend on the size of dots.