When we think about it, plants and trees are the original form of solar cells in the world. The transform the sun’s rays into energy by a process known as photosynthesis. Scientists at the Monash University in Melbourne, Australia have come up with a device that mimics this process artificially. It can become one of the most efficient and clean source of renewable energy in the world.
In a study published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the research team explains how their artificial photosynthesis machine uses electro-chemical water splitting, using commercially produced solar cells to generate hydrogen and oxygen by passing an electrical current through water. This process creates hydrogen fuel, a clean form of energy, and there are zero carbon emissions to contribute to global warming.
Until the development of these “artificial leaves”, the record for the most energy efficient solar panel was at 18%. Plants can convert roughly one or two percent into energy. This device can transform 22%. Professor Doug MacFarlane and his team are not satisfied with this result and aim to raise its efficiency to 30%.
He also admits that this technology won’t be available on the market very soon but he hopes that one day every home would be outfitted with such a device in the basement or inside the walls and capable of replicating the natural process native to plants, photosynthesis.