A major step toward artificial photosynthesis

Edit Hook

Taking inspiration from green leaves, Chinese researchers have proposed the Artificial Inorganic Leaf. They first infiltrated the leaf of Anemone vitifolia with titanium dioxide (TiO2), a known inorganic photocatalyst. After doing this they found that the TiO2 had been biotemplated to become 8 times more active for hydrogen production, and 3 times more active than other commercial photocatalysts. Embedding platinum on the surface further increased activity of the leaf by a factor of 10, and is assisted by nitrogen already present in the leaf. Future research will build on the biotemplating and hierarchical structure to enhance the design and transfer the technology for applications.

Key Differentiators

Solar energy is abundant and readily available. Other researchers are pursuing this direction with the knowledge that hydrogen is a clean burning fuel that produces water vapor as exhaust. Accordingly, the impact upon the environment is substantially reduced. Cost-effective and sustainable methods of producing hydrogen en masse have proved elusive. The Artificial Inorganic Leaf shows notable efficiency improvements over traditional preparations.

Biomimicry Story

Photosynthesis is a complex biological pathway that harvests light energy from the sun and converts it into biological energy. This biological energy supports nearly all life on earth. Green plant leaves are structured to provide efficient light harvesting. Structures focus and guide light to the complex light harvesting centers. Researchers used this as a template for their artificial inorganic leaf blueprint. Using biotemplating they achieved substantial efficiency improvements based on the hierarchical structure of natural leaves.

Challenges Solved

Harvesting solar energy, production of hydrogen fuel

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