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Power Science

How Artificial Leaves Could Generate Clean Hydrogen 101

An anonymous reader writes "At Imperial College London, researchers have embarked on a £1m project to study, and eventually mimic, photosynthesis. Part of the 'artificial leaf' project involves working out exactly how leaves use sunlight to make useful molecules. The team then plans to build artificial systems that can do the same to generate clean fuels such as hydrogen and methanol. These would then be used in fuel cells to make electricity or to directly power super-clean vehicles."
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How Artificial Leaves Could Generate Clean Hydrogen

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  • Finally! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:08PM (#29040531) Journal

    It staggers the mind to think of the amazing technological advances we've made but we still haven't taken the time to unlock the secrets of photosynthesis. Given environmental concerns, I thought this would have been done a long time ago.

    The down side:
    Biology will get even HARDER.

  • by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:10PM (#29040579)

    If we combine this with the efforts on artifical tress that generate energy from solar and kenetic motion (http://www.solarbotanic.com/) then we would have a perfect energy ecosystem.

    My only concern would be how flammable these tress would be? Remember, only you can prevent forrest fires... (grin)


  • by DarkMage0707077 ( 1284674 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:16PM (#29040635)
    So, if this works, would we then have whole artifical forests creating hydrogen and methanol? How safe would these things be? I imagine a forest would require access to sunlight, but it's somewhat difficult to have proper safeguards on a place that has a big window in it. And with these "trees" being full of methanol/hydrogen, one spark or too MUCH sun/heat and the whole place goes up like a bomb.
  • Re:FARK (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jacktherobot ( 1538645 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:21PM (#29040737)
    I'll finally be able to realize my dream of directing a live action movie adaptation of super mario galaxy starring ron jeremy!
  • Re:FARK (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:03PM (#29041393) Journal
    I plan on creating a bee suit to let 300 pound people fly.
    Oh, good. I think that has a MUCH better chance of happening then our moving towards a hydrogen economy. The simple fact is, that hydrogen is actually WORSE than any other options. Even right now, current in production Batteries are already better than what hydrogen can or ever will do.
  • Re:FARK (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:24PM (#29044811) Journal

    Hydrogen, currently, has higher energy density, BUT has issues with storage, as well as usage (motors are very inefficient and fuel cells are a LONG ways off). LONG before hydrogen issues are solved, batteries will have a higher energy density (assuming that hydrogen can not be compressed infinitly).

    Fuel cells are currently being used in cars today [honda.com], so they are definitely NOT a "LONG ways off".

    All of your complaints are just complaints, that have already been addressed. It's FUD.

    Electric motors are far more efficient at converting power to usable kinetic energy than gasoline engines, yet you actually try to bring this up? Are you "that guy" who makes up non-issues? Sure sounds like it. Hell, if you're so convinced that current engines are so efficient, they can just burn the hydrogen instead.

    And to counter a previous statement you made saying there's no free source of hydrogen, you're wrong. I have a solar photovoltaic (pv) panel that can give me "free hydrogen" from water, and I can use the O2 in other applications. And a car can convert it back to water, essentially making it a solar-powered car, with zero emissions. PV panels convert water and use some energy used to liquify the H2, sell the O2, then car converts remaining H2 back to H2O with a free electron used to run the engine.

    The only concession I'll give you is that pv panels would not be able to produce enough for all the cars, were they all retrofitted. But that's the entire point of tfa, to find more efficient methods of getting hydrogen. It would take work to develop a hydrogen economy, and still have enough fuel for those that wanted it. But, if other more efficient methods of producing hydrogen could be found, that'd make it take far less space and be much more efficient. Currently available panels range in efficiency from 8% (for A-Si) to 20% or so (hybrid A-Si + C-Si), and electrolysis of water uses a lot of energy (which is why it give so much energy back). Harnessing the crapton of power from the sun for this is the obvious way to do it, so usable methods of stripping off the hydrogen is important.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.