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 …

Engineered E. coli Mass Produce Key Precursors to Potent Biofuels

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Hearing of E. coli outbreaks usually makes us reconsider our fast-food dining choices.  Other possible, friendlier uses for the pesky bacteria, though, could show the way to clean energy production, making a “gasoline-like biofuel,” according to Harvard Medical School and Wyss Institute researchers. According to Harvard’s news release, “New lines of engineered bacteria can tailor-make key precursors of high-octane biofuels that could one day replace gasoline, scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School report in the June 24 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “’The big contribution is that we were able to program cells to make specific fuel precursors,’ said Pamela …