Personalized Energy

The Nocera lab at the chemistry department at MIT studies the basic mechanisms of energy conversion in biology and chemistry.

On advice he received from Kurt Vonnegut: “He told me, ‘stop worrying about the planet dying. When you have a big organism and you become irritating to it, the immunological system just kicks in and kills the invading organism’. And he assured me that we have just become so irritating to the earth, she’ll just kill us. Which makes me happier. It says that there is something much bigger than us, which we forget about the earth. And she is much more powerful than us. She’ll get rid of us if we don’t take care of her.”

Their PNAS article in 2006 was very inspiring for energy lovers.

and in the video, he talks about personalised energy. Daniel Nocera is swimming very hard against the current of mainstream energy research. While many scientists are figuring out how to scale up wind, geothermal or biomass systems, Nocera is focusing on “personalized” energy units that can be manufactured, distributed and installed on the cheap.

His main concern lies with the increasing energy demands of six billion people, primarily from developing nations, who will be marching onto the world stage by 2050 and likely doubling the planet’s energy consumption, from around 13 to 26 terawatts (that’s trillion watts). A “solution to the energy challenge rests in providing the non-legacy (developing) world a carbon-neutral, sustainable energy supply,” says Nocera.

Source: The New Yorker

ANNALS OF INVENTION about Daniel Nocera and the artificial leaf. Nocera was a science-minded high-school junior in New Jersey at the beginning of the Arab oil embargo, in 1973. At the end of the decade, the Iranian revolution, followed closely by the outbreak of war between Iran and Iraq, precipitated a second oil crisis. By then, Nocera was a graduate student in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. Within a short time, he had decided to devote his science career to energy. Most of the energy we use comes from photosynthesis. Green plants store energy from the sun in certain chemical bonds, and we exploit that energy when we eat plants, or when we eat animals that have eaten plants, or when we burn either plants or substances ultimately derived from plants: firewood, peat, coal, oil, natural gas, ethanol. Nocera decided in the early eighties that the chemistry of green plants was the likeliest place to seek an answer to civilization’s long-term energy difficulties. When the price of oil dropped in the mid-eighties, alternative-fuel research declined in popularity as an academic pursuit. But he persisted in his research, seeking a way to inexpensively replicate solar-energy conversion as performed by vegetation. At the 2011 national meeting of the American Chemical Society, Nocera announced a tangible breakthrough: a cheap, playing-card-size coated-silicon sheet that, when placed in a glass of tap water and exposed to sunlight, split the water into hydrogen and oxygen. Read more…(subscription required)


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