Imagine if energy quite literally grew on trees

Forget solar panels. Our homes could soon be powered by something far more strange and exciting.

Scientists from the Monash University in Melbourne have developed an artificial leaf that could feasibly run entire communities.

According to Wired, this device turns water into fuel using nothing but energy from the sun; a process that goes a long way in replicating the natural photosynthesis that allows actual plants to convert light to energy.

The artificial leaf – which takes the hydrogen particles out of water so it can be used for fuel – can run cheaply and practically, making it one of the cleanest, purest forms of energy systems developed so far.

In fact, it breaks a world record for efficiency in its field, well and truly meeting the official benchmark for an “ultimate sustainable fuel”.

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This technology could already be used to fuel many cars already on the market. “Hydrogen can be used to generate electricity directly in fuel cells”, said Professor Doug MacFarlane, who co-authored the study.

“Cars driven by fuel cell electric engines are becoming available from a number of car manufacturers. Hydrogen could even be used as an inexpensive energy storage technology at the household level to store energy from roof-top solar cells”.

The system itself is not quite economical enough to be an affordable household staple – at least not yet – but the researchers kindly made a point to work with affordable nickel components, not a more expensive metal, to ensure it could one day be affordable for the masses.

Scientists have long hoped to create a technology that can copy the effortless efficiency of nature. This breakthrough gives us a whole new hope for a future in which human ingenuity can keep the planet clean and healthy for our grandchildren.

Are you excited by this step toward a cleaner future? Would you try this new technology for yourself?