Friday, August 01, 2008

Learning from plants... to use solar energy

Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, focused on the water-splitting part of photosynthesis. They found cheap and simple catalysts that did a remarkably good job. They dissolved cobalt and phosphate in water and then zapped it with electricity through an electrode. The cobalt and phosphate form a thin-film catalyst around the electrode that then use electrons from the electrode to split the oxygen from water. The oxygen bubbles to the surface, leaving a proton behind.
A few inches away, another catalyst, platinum, helps that bare proton become hydrogen
James Barber, a biochemistry professor at Imperial College London who studies artificial photosynthesis but was not involved in this research, called the discovery by Nocera and Kanan a "giant leap" toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale.

Article here.

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