THE ARTIFICIAL LEAF - John Wawrzonek

II. The Artificial Leaf

THUS FAR THIS SITE has focused on larger scale issues involving the workings of the entire program.

THE STORY OF THE ARTIFICIAL LEAF is taken from a book Taming the Sun by two researchers, one at Cal Tech and the other at Harvard. These projects are both about 50 years old but they differ enormously from the carbon sequestering technologies in pilot use in various parts of the world. Here the goal is to creat inexpensive fuel from water and carbon dioxide somewhat like a tree does. But trees are about 1% efficient and that would not produce an inexpensive fuel.

THE STORY IS WORTH READING because it sheds light on a problem that is the same and yet completely different from carbon sequestration. Here the goal is to make an inexpensive fuel on a very large scale with an affordable scaleable system. The technology is insanely difficult yet it would solve two problems with one machine by converting CO2 into fuel. This scrubs the air and generates fuel (possibly hydrogen) in the process. However, complete success is still a long way off and I would not hestiate to remind the inventors that there might not be a world worth living in by the time they succeed.

SO THERE ARE MANY WARNINGS in the global warming problem, partly that it has to deal with the waste of so many different versions and applications of the same process: combustion of hydrocarbons. However, because we have not paid attention (I think because it was avoidable until now and because it made so much money for so many people) until now and even now not enough attention. Whether anyone will make money from it other than scientists and the builders of machines, remains to be seen.

We have let it become a race as a result of playing in the biggest sand box and not worrying where we would get more sand as it slowly ended up in the drains of washing machines.

If the "Manhatten Project" could be used to get lots of people to pay serious attention, it would be worth having whether it succeded in its original mission or not.

IN THE END, contrary to the artificial leaf problem, global warming is more a people problem than a technology problem. Let's hope that CO2 sequestered in some lonely place, safely underground, does not become victim of a large earthquake. God could still kick over the wastebasket.

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