Artificial / Bionic Leaves
In June of this year, a conference called “The Annual Meeting of the New Champions” (held in China) highlighted the “…best technologies designed to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet …within the next 3-5 years.” (Source)
The Annual Meeting was established in 2007 as “The foremost global gathering on science, technology and innovation…the next generation of fast-growing enterprises shaping the future of business and society.” (Source)
One of the projects from this meeting that I have chosen to highlight is Daniel Nocera’s “Artificial Leaves”, designed to turn CO2 into fuel. He has been working on a way to artificially simulate the photosynthesis process of plants for many years now, and is finally (I suppose within the next few years) ready to take his successful technological discoveries to the next level.
Here are the Who, What, When, Where and Whys about his project:
What is it?
Artificial / Bionic Leaves …
+ that reduce C02 emissions
+ that create fuel from hydrogen
+ that is a great way to store the energy until we need it.
+ that can help underdeveloped countries
+ that can help combat climate change
Who is doing the research?
Several researchers have been pursuing the goal of understanding and re-creating photosynthesis. The most notable are: David Nocera and his team at Harvard University, Chemist Fernando Uribe-Romo at the University of Central Florida and Research scientist Amin Salehi-Khojin & team at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
What is this capable of?
+ Removing / Reducing CO2 emissions from the air
+ Powering Homes
+ Providing Fuel for Cars
+ Providing energy for communities
+ Solving the challeges of solar and wind power
+ Increasing the production of crops
How will this be used in every day life?
Nocera imagines people using the technology to power their homes & sustain their lives. Beyond producing hydrogen and carbon-rich fuels in a sustainable way, he has demonstrated that equipping the system with a different metabolically altered bacterium can produce nitrogen-based fertilizer right in the soil, an approach that would increase crops yields in areas where conventional fertilizers are not readily available.
What are the risks?
We’re not sure how bacteria will evolve or how plants will be effected by the nitrogen-based fertilizer in the soil. How will it effect our food?
When will this become available?
Hopefully within the next few years.
Links & Sources
MIT Tech Review – “A Big Leap for an Artificial Leaf” (June 7th, 2016)
National Geographic – “Daniel Nocera: Maverick Inventor of the Artificial Leaf” (May 19th, 2014)
NBC News / Science – “Can ‘Bionic Leaf’ Solve our Climate, Energy Problems? (May 30th, 2017)
Videos to Watch:
“The Artificial Leaf” – Forward Focus Films 2nd Place Winner in 2012:
“Bionic Leaf Turns Sunlight into Liquid Fuel” -Harvard University Youtube Channel