Artificial Leaves: A Way To Save The Planet?


The newest innovation in nature-mimicking technology is the incredibly intelligent design of the floating artificial leaf. It can generate clean fuels from sunlight and water and has the potential to work on much larger scales than where it is currently being tested.

What Is An Artificial Leaf?

The design is very thin and made of flexible materiel. The leaves mimic the photosynthesis process and can turn sunlight into food. These brilliant light weight floating leaves were designed at the University of Cambridge. 

As the leaves are cheap to make and light enough to float, they can be used to generate a sustainable alternative to gasoline without taking up space on land. During the testing phases, it was very clear to see that the leaves were a success as they easily converted sunlight into fuels as efficiently as plant leaves.

This is a momentous time for the creators, testers and of course humanity as this is the first time that clean fuel has been generated on water. The leaves are small and work on a small scale, but the idea is proving to have the potential to change the way we view energy production all together. There is potential for the concept of the leaves to be taken on to a much larger scale which would result in clearing up polluted waterways, ports, or even the sea. This also opens doors for bringing more eco-friendly practices into the shipping industry worldwide and potentially reducing its hideous reliance on earth damaging fossil fuels.

Renewable energy has become a booming industry but has only really affected the technologies of certain industries. There are some colossal industries, such as shipping that still require plenty of change and support in terms of fossil fuel usage and renewable energy. 

Roughly 80% of global trade is transported by cargo vessels/ships which use earth damaging fossil fuels to operate. The shipping industry requires loads of attention regarding their fuel consumption and these artificial leaves are hopefully going to be a huge part of the future of the shipping industry.

How The Leaf Was Made

The scientists involved in creating this wondrous piece of tech took their inspiration from the electronics industry. This industry has made it possible to do everything from play at sites like Grand Rush Casino to create art using AI. 

Using smart phones and flexi displays as their inspiration. The challenge for the Cambridge research team was how to deposit light absorbers onto lightweight substrates and protect them against getting wet. 

After plenty of trial and error, they found that using thin-film metal oxides and materials known as perovskites, which form a coated onto flexible plastic and metal foils, were what finally did the trick. The devices are covered with micrometre-thin, water-repellent carbon-based layers that prevented any water interference. It ended up working perfectly and looking like a real leaf.

The testing process of the artificial leaves showed that they can split water into hydrogen and oxygen or reduce CO2 to syngas. There are still some humps to iron out before the leaves hit the commercial market, but so far, everything looks like it is right on track.

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