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MIT developed a cheap artificial leaf

  1. Aug 16, 2012 #1

    dlgoff

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    I just read the Photonics Spectra article "Artificial leaf could charge up developing world". The research was published in the American Chemical Society journal which I don't have access to, but from the Abstract, this would be interesting to observe:

    H2 and O2 bubbles :cool:
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2012 #2
    So this would be the new generation of solar panels?
     
  4. Aug 16, 2012 #3

    chemisttree

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    This would be the new generation of fuel cells. Solar panels convert sunlight directly into electricity but this process produces hydrogen gas. Much better IMO since hydrogen gas can be used as a reagent to make other useful things like ammonia from the nitrogen in the air. Imagine using this to produce ammonia for fertilizer without the expensive step of converting natural gas to hydrogen first.

    Compare the usual ammonia manufacturing process based on the catalytic reforming of methane to produce hydrogen followed by the Haber-Bosch process to make ammonia to this simple photo-hydrogen process.

    Pretty exciting but large arrays will need to be employed for truly industrial scale manufacture. This does suggest that since the hard part (hydrogen production from steam reforming of methane) becomes easy, we could have a more distributed manufacturing process for ammonia. Perhaps a plant on every farm in every third world country where sunlight is plentiful and soil fertility is low.
     
  5. Aug 16, 2012 #4
    Thanks for the clarification chemisttree.

    What does "nonlegacy" users mean?
     
  6. Aug 17, 2012 #5

    chemisttree

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    I believe that it means folks that haven't been a part of the fossil fuel economy. If you buy electricity from a local coal-fired or natural gas-fired plant, you are a legacy user. You operate from a framework built by energy providers based on fossil fuels. Some would call this the 'developed' world.

    If you have never bought electricity because you can't afford it or there is no local provider you have no 'legacy' stretching back to fossil fuel-based energy... you are a new, 'nonlegacy' user of energy derived from a new, non-fossil fuel source. This could also be called the 'undeveloped' or 'non-developed' world. I think this is the new politically correct nomenclature for these countries.
     
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