Powering Your House with Leaves

Man’s need to discover alternative forms of energy is not new. Our dependence on oil has only grown, and with soaring gas prices we’re all feeling the crunch. So whenever an alternative comes along there’s always this exciting kid-in-a-candy store feeling. But then I always feel a bit sick to my stomach to think of how much I depend on oil and electricity to run my life smoothly. Since I moved, I’ve been trying to cut down on how often I need to use my car, and I’ve successfully cut down to an average of one day a week. Public transportation gets me pretty much every where I need to go, so my wallet has had quite an appreciated break. In addition, I’ve kept my use of heat in my house down to a bear minimum in the winter. Enough to keep the pipes from freezing, and I just wear extra warm socks and drink lots of hot tea.

But now with summer coming, gas prices are getting higher and higher, and that road trip I’ve been thinking about is starting to seem as if it’s going to cost a small fortune. And to be honest, I can deal with being cold far better than I can with being hot. Don’t get me wrong, summer is my favorite season, but sleeping when it’s 85 and humid is no picnic. During the day it’s fine, but I turn into an evil gremlin when I don’t get enough sleep. So needless to say my oil and electricity consumption goes up quite a bit during the summer months.

The five largest oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobile, and Shell – have approached the $1 Trillion profit mark in the past decade. Barrels now hold the price tag of $100 each, based primarily on our need and our foreign relations, in addition to general greed and corporate politics. Hybrid cars and biodiesel have made a small dent, but not enough to reduce the insane profit margin of big oil.

So there’s always a glimmer of hope when I read stories like this. Daniel Nocera, a professor at MIT has created an artificial leaf that can perform photosynthesis at a much more efficient rate than actual leaves – 10 times more effective actually. He says it has the capability of powering a home in a developed country for an entire day with just one gallon of water. The materials to make this leaf are extremely cost effective as well, with such products as silicon. In addition is much more stable than previous attempts to fabricate other such leaves. It’s essentially an advanced solar cell that’s about as big as a playing card, and probably just as cheap to produce.

Inexpensive, stable, presumably infinitely renewable, and powered by water – that’s technology I can get on board with. Perhaps then I can actually afford to get an electric car.


©  Of Popular Rhetoric, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Of Popular Rhetoric with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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