For you to better understand how artificial leaf solar power works, you must first understand the concept of photosynthesis. Therefore, what is photosynthesis?
Photosynthesis is a process whereby an organism uses the power of sunlight to produce sugar. Plants, bacteria, and some single-celled organisms use photosynthesis to survive. In other words, these organisms use cellular respiration to convert sunlight into ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) ‘fuel’ to support a specific function. For example, plants use photosynthesis to create the green pigment chlorophyll.
As you probably know, chlorophyll is important as it plays a role in removing CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the air and release oxygen. ATP is an energy that is stored in living systems and consists of Nucleotide and three groups of Phosphate.
Why Is Understanding Photosynthesis Important in this topic? #
Because nearly all living things depend on the energy produced from photosynthesis for nourishment, scientists wanted to understand this process and how we (human beings) can harness the potential power of sunlight.
After a lot of research, trial and error, and testing, solar cells were invented. These solar cells have the potential of converting sunlight into electric current.
Solar Cell Topic Overview #
Solar cells are also known as Photo Voltaic Cells. They are made from a semiconducting material, often silicon. When the semiconducting material is hit with light, it absorbs it using photons. The absorbed energy knocks electrons out of the silicon, which allows them to flow.
If semiconducting material like silicon is mixed together with other impurities such as boron or phosphorus, an electrical field. This electrical field acts like a diode where it only allows electrical current to flow in one direction and hence the production of electricity.
To know more on this topic, read more on: - Repeated Mechanical Stress creates stronger Nano Composites | Calculate High Cycle Fatigue | Nano Composite Material
The Limitations Of Solar Cells #
A solar cell can only achieve efficiencies of about 10%. Furthermore, they are expensive to manufacture. With this information, it is very clear that its major drawback is inefficiency. Besides, it is almost impossible to avoid inefficiency with silicon cells. That is because it demands an accurate photon or light band gap energy to allow electrons to flow. If the light has a low energy band gap, then it will pass through. If the energy band gap is high than the desired energy, then the extra energy will be wasted as heat.
Why Artificial Leaf? #
The artificial leaf comes with a mixture of photosynthesis, conventional solar cells, and hydrogen fuel cell.
Solar power with artificial leaf combines the available solar cell, with affordable catalysts made of Cobalt, and Nickle, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is stored and used as an energy source.
Collecting and storing the energy from the sun as hydrogen fuel is the key to overcome the limits of the solar cell. It produces current while the sun is shining but also demands to be stored somewhere for night use or during cloudy weather. The energy can be stored in batteries, but we all know how limited this can be. Therefore, storing the energy as hydrogen may be the answer for producing continuous energy.