Daniel Nocera Returns to the Artificial Leaf

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Many scientists are turning to mimicking nature to probe its secrets, but Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, has gone far beyond his natural model.  Reported in 2012, Nocera came up with the idea of an “artificial leaf,” a silicon sheet with a layer of cobalt-based catalyst that releases oxygen on one side and a layer a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy on the other side that releases hydrogen.  Several researchers have followed this initial breakthrough, trying different materials and combinations of ingredients. For a while, it looked as though Nocera turned his attention to battery development, but recent news shows he’s back investigating artificial leaves – with great improvements over his initial efforts – and those of …

Beating Plants at Their Own Game

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Going to medical school to learn how to use bacteria to make gasoline may seem like a complicated process, but the developers of a new way of extracting biofuels from sunlight say it’s not.  You may remember Dr. Daniel Nocera’s efforts a few years ago to create a bionic leaf, a simple way to extract oxygen and hydrogen from water when the leaf in water was exposed to sunlight.  Several other such “water splitters” have achieved newsworthiness in the last few years, but each has the impediment of not delivering hydrogen in a readily useable way. Usually, any H2 produced has to be compressed, stored in hydrides, or encapsulated in some way to make it a viable fuel.  There is …

Making Hydrogen Abundant and Inexpensive

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

The quandary in producing and using hydrogen is that it’s the most common element in the universe and the oldest, having been formed within a micro-second of the Big Bang.  Despite that, it’s always associated with other materials, and to use pure hydrogen usually requires extracting from the material in which it’s found.  Water is the most common source for hydrogen, but as noted before, getting hydrogen out of water is harder than it looks. As shown in earlier blog, various techniques have been tried to make this extraction, some seemingly close to providing usable quantities at reasonable prices.  Dr. Daniel Nocera of MIT and later Harvard used a two-catalyst system to pull oxygen and hydrogen from water. State University …

Cambridge, MIT Chasing Room-Temperature Hydrogen

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

News from Cambridge University shows some promise for inexpensive production of hydrogen, an elusive process considering the lightest element in creation is also the most common, said to make up 90 percent of the visible universe.  On earth, it readily combines with oxygen to form water, a handy thing to have around for the benefit of our species. Getting hydrogen out of the water so that we can burn it in our cars and airplanes is a frustrating process, though, often requiring more energy for the extraction than can be obtained from its combustion. According the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “To make [hydrogen] usable in fuel cells or otherwise provide energy, we must expend energy or modify another energy source …