Photosynthetically inspired energy storage & artificial photosynthesis.

Edit Hook

During photosynthesis, the light reactions result in the splitting of a neutral water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. This biochemical pathway is quite complex and difficult to reproduce. In addition to untangling these multielectron photoreactions, the Nocera group demonstrated Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer using superfast lasers for measurement. The group has since developed a suite of photocatalysts for the production of hydrogen from diverse water sources. The company Sun Catalytix has been founded to advance these achievements and develop them into commercial products.

Key Differentiators

The essence of photosynthesis is the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen. This is a complicated process, and researchers have grappled with it for some time. The Nocera lab has succeeded in identifying suitable catalysts that are cost effective, and 76% efficient using virtually any water source. One major difference from existing products is that, according to MIT chemist Daniel Nocera, this technology has the potential to produce low-cost electricity for individual homes. The solar cell is about the size of a playing card and uses inexpensive materials like silicon and inexpensive catalysts like nickel and cobalt. Placed in a gallon of water in bright sunlight, the device could produce enough electricity to supply a house in a developing country with electricity for a day.

Biomimicry Story

Photosynthesis is the primary form of energy production that sustains biological life on the planet. By fixing solar energy in molecules, plants and algae support nearly all other life on the planet. These photosynthetic reactions are therefore immensely interesting to scientists who seek ways to harvest the energy of the sun and store it for future use. The Nocera lab and Sun Catalytix are untangling the pathways of photosynthesis, and a related process, proton-coupled electron transfer. They have mimicked this functionality in terms of hydrogen production using catalysts. See also: MIT (Nocera Lab)See also: Service RF. 2011. Artificial leaf turns sunlight into a cheap energy source. Science. 332 (6025): 25.

Challenges Solved

Storage of solar energy, efficient harvesting of solar energy.

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