LSU researchers: Next green energy source could be an artificial leaf


LSU researchers are exploring ways to use sunlight to create “green energy on demand,” which could help Louisiana diversify its economy.

You probably learned about the general idea of photosynthesis—a plant’s ability to absorb and use energy from sunlight—in elementary school. But the exact mechanics are still being discovered, says David Vinyard, assistant professor in LSU’s Department of Biological Sciences.

“It’s shocking how much we don’t know about how nature converts light energy to chemical energy considering it’s happening at such a massive scale,” says Vinyard, who received a federal award in 2019 to study energy conversion. “If we can learn the chemical and physical mechanisms used by nature, we can give those blueprints to chemists and engineers to develop clean energy conversion devices.”

An artificial leaf could be an inexpensive and efficient solar fuel cell, the researchers say. As energy markets work to reduce their carbon footprints, Vinyard’s work might help Louisiana diversify its energy economy, says Jason Lanclos with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.