My sense of awe for science just jumped again. Science Daily has an article on artificial leaf development here. The concept is called an artificial leaf. The concept is in development but
The new analysis lays out a roadmap for a research program to improve the efficiency of these systems, and could quickly lead to the production of a practical, inexpensive and commercially viable prototype.The idea is:
Such a system would use sunlight to produce a storable fuel, such as hydrogen, instead of electricity for immediate use. This fuel could then be used on demand to generate electricity through a fuel cell or other device. This process would liberate solar energy for use when the sun isn't shining, and open up a host of potential new applicationsAnd these are serious folks - MIT folks now residing at Harvard. They are not saying they have the solution but:
Models to determine the theoretical limits of a given system often lead researchers to pursue the development of new systems that approach those limits, Buonassisi says. "It's usually from these kinds of models that someone gets the courage to go ahead and make the improvements," he says.Think of this as moving from genetic medicine pre-genome project - when it was hunt and peck for solutions - to post project, when you had a roadmap to start comparing results to and planning next steps from. This really could make this happen much quicker.
I only hope to see this soon or sooner. This would be the game changer. Here's why
Existing climactic generation (wind. solar) suffer from two impedements - they are climate dependent (they only generate when the sun shines or winds blows) and they do not map to existing energy delivery infrastructure (we have to build lots of power lines to get the power).
Solar to fuel breaks down this issue in two ways. First, by creating a gaseous fuel directly, the storage issue is greatly reduced in cost and increased in efficiency. Direct storage of power requires huge pumped tsorage (with attendant issus) or massive battries (cost and efficiency). Storing a gaseous fuel can be done in existing infrastructure at relatively low cost and impact. Second, the product delivered from the artificial leaf is a gaseous fuel - something the existing energy knows how to build collection systems for. In fact, the entire "midstream" fossil fuel business is also known as gathering (i.e., collecting smaller gaseous or liquid fuel production to a single point). Therefore, there is a lot of existing technology to do this efficiently. The transport of that gaseous fuel for geathereing collection point to point of use can either use existing road based infrastructure (think those big propane tank looking trucks you see on the highway) or can use pipelines (no EMF issues).
This really is great.