Living leaves can turn the energy of sunlight directly into a chemical fuel. Using the very same concept researchers led by MIT professor Daniel Nocera created something that they call an “artificial leaf”.
Artificial leaf can split water into oxygen and hydrogen using solar power. The Artificial leaf is a silicon solar cell with different catalytic materials bonded onto its two sides. The light (solarlight) generates a flow of electricity that causes the water molecules, with the help of the catalysts, to split into oxygen and hydrogen, which bubble up from the two surfaces.
The video below shows how it works by simply placing it in a container of water and exposed to sunlight. It quickly begins to generate streams of bubbles. On one side of the leaf the outer layer is coated in a cobalt catalyst that releases the oxygen from the water. On the other side of the leaf is a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy that takes care of releasing the hydrogen.