Entries in Power (4)


Chemist Hopes 'Artificial Leaf' Can Power Civilization

SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Imagine an artificial leaf that mimics photosynthesis, which lets plants harness energy from the sun. But this leaf would have the ability to power your homes and cars with clean energy using only sunlight and water.

This is not some far-off idea of the future. It’s reality, and the subject of a jury-prize-winning film in the GE Focus Forward Film Competition.

Jared P. Scott and Kelly Nyks’ short film, The Artificial Leaf, showcases chemist Daniel Nocera, the inventor of the artificial leaf, a device that he says can power the world.

“The truth is stranger than fiction,” Kelly Nyks, a partner at PF Pictures, told ABC News. “What I think is so exciting is that Dan has taken this science and applied it in a way that makes bringing it to scale to solve the energy crisis for the planet real and possible.”

Nocera’s leaf is simply a silicon wafer coated with catalysts that use sunlight to split water to into hydrogen and oxygen components.

“Essentially, it mimics photosynthesis,” Nocera told ABC News.

The gases that bubble up from the water can be turned into a fuel to produce electricity in the form of fuel cells. The device may sound like science fiction fantasy, but Nocera said he hopes one day it will provide an alternative to the centralized energy system — the grid.

Worldwide, more than 1.6 billion people live without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people live without access to clean sources of fuel for cooking.

“This is the model: We’re going to have a very distributed energy system,” Nocera told ABC News. With the leaf, “using just sunlight and water, you can be off the grid. If you’re poor, you don’t have a grid, so this gives them a way to have energy in the day and at night.”

With just the artificial leaf, 1.5 bottles of drinking water and sunlight, you could have enough electricity to power a small home, but the cost is still a problem, though Nocera said he believes that will come down with time and research.

The artificial leaf is cheaper than solar panels but still expensive. Hydrogen from a solar panel and electrolysis unit can currently be made for about $7 per kilogram; the artificial leaf would come in at $6.50.

Nocera is looking for ways to drive down the costs make these devices more widely available. He recently replaced the platinum catalyst that produces hydrogen gas with a less-expensive nickel-molybdenum-zinc compound. He’s also looking for ways to reduce the amount of silicon needed.

In 2009, Nocera’s artificial leaf was selected as a recipient of funding by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), which supports energy technologies that could create a more secure and affordable American future.

Nyks and Scott said they hope The Artificial Leaf will bring awareness to the public that sustainable energy solutions do exist.

“We make films for social action,” Scott, also a partner at PF Pictures, told ABC News. “We see films as a tool for social change. And what I think Dan sketches out is that we start with energy. And if we solve the energy crisis, we’ll solve the climate crisis, and then we’ll solve the water crisis, and then we’ll solve the food crisis. But it starts with energy.”

The directors were one of 30 filmmaking teams asked to make a movie that could highlight an innovation that could change the world as part of GE Focus Forward, a series of three-minute films created by award-winning documentary makers including Alex Gibney, Lucy Walker, Albert Maysles and Morgan Spurlock.

Anyone with an Internet connection has access to the videos online. The winning entries are featured at

So far, total media impressions for GE Focus Forward have exceeded 1.5 billion. In addition, the films are screening at all the major film festivals around the world and have played on every continent, including Antarctica.

Nyks and Scott said they hope to take the success of the short and turn it into a feature-length documentary.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Irene Aftermath: Almost 2 Million Customers Left Without Power

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Following the passage of Hurricane Irene through New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, officials estimated that as of Sunday afternoon close to two million people were left without power.

The weather system, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday, wreaked havoc all over the tri-state area, leaving in its wake, downed trees and power lines, along with flooded homes.

Officials from the Con Edison power company said on Sunday afternoon about 120,000 customers in New York City were without power, while New Jersey had about 750,000 customers without power. Officials in Connecticut say they estimated that over 700,000 customers across the state were powerless.

Con Edison says in addition to its New York-based staff, more than 400 workers from across the nation came to New York over the past few days, to help with restoring power to customers in the wake of Irene. The company says these workers were now being deployed to address the large-scale power problem.

Company officials estimate that the majority of customers will have power restored by sometime Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Money Saving Tip: Unplug Electronics and Slay "Energy Vampires"

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- How high is your monthly electricity bill? With the kind of summer we've had, your power consumption has probably gone through the roof if you've kept the fan and air conditioner on to keep you cool during the ongoing wave of oppressive heat.

There are ways that you can cut back, though. Did you know that certain appliances and electronics will continue to use power even when they're switched off? It's estimated that 10 percent of the average home electricity bill comes from the energy used by these products, which are popularly called "energy vampires."

These products include cable and DVR boxes, cordless phone chargers, microwave ovens, and video game consoles.

The only way to prevent them from using standby power -- that is, drawing on the energy supply even after they're turned off -- is to unplug them.

Here are a few tips, taken from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to help you cut standby power and save money:

Identify Energy Vampires

  • Identify products that draw standby power. Products with one or more of the following features typically have standby power use: A remote control , external power supply, digital display, LED status light, or digital clock, a battery charger or a soft-touch key-pad.
  • Other products that may not have these features also can have standby power. The only way to be certain is to measure them with a meter. Most homes will typically have 20 such devices.

Pull the Plug

  • Unplug appliances or electronic items that aren't used often. The best example is the television and DVD/DVR in the second guest room.
  • Use a power strip with a switch to control clusters of products. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's website, the most likely targets are computer clusters (PC, display, printer, scanner, speakers, wireless transmitter, etc.); video clusters (TV, DVD player, powered speakers, game consoles, etc.); and audio clusters (receiver, amplifier, CD players, etc.). Be sure to keep the set-top box and modem on a separate circuit to avoid loss of connection.

Other Tips

  • Buy low-standby products. This could be difficult because few products list their standby power use. Most Energy Star-rated items have lower standby.
  • Most of us leave our cell phones to charge overnight while we sleep. But they only take about an hour to charge fully, so the rest of the time you're wasting energy. Try charging your cell phone while you eat dinner instead -- a shorter time frame.

    An aggressive campaign, armed with knowledge about which products draw standby, can cut total standby by as much as a third, according to the Berkeley lab.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


TV Set-Top Boxes Costing Americans Billions Each Year

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could your cable or satellite TV box be costing you money each year?

More than four in five homes have the equipment installed and, according to a new report by the the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), they cost Americans over $3 billion a year in utility bills. Why? They never go to sleep.

The environmental group says the set-top boxes use two-thirds of their total power consumption when they are not being used.

Furthermore, the NRDC says boxes that include a high-definition digital video recorder, or HD-DVR, use more electricity than the average flat panel TV.

The group says more energy efficient boxes could reduce power consumption by 30 to 50 percent by 2020.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio