Leaf it to Solar

The energy industry really needs to lighten up … Literally.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We’ve been using the sun to produce power for almost two centuries. Today, mostly with solar panels. Unfortunately, they’re expensive and take up a lot of space. Can we use solar energy more efficiently?

Virgil Andrei and team at University of Cambridge think so.

They developed artificial leaves made of thin sheets of metal coated with a semi-conducting mineral. Together, these materials harvest solar energy and convert it into electricity. Compared to typical solar panels, the leaves are light, flexible, and low-cost. Their artificial photosynthesis generates just as much fuel from sunlight as real plants! Also like real plants, these artificial leaves have a water-repellent coating, AND they can FLOAT. 

These properties make the leaves suitable for large-scale production without taking precious space on land. Imagine a sea of floating leaves making clean energy!

Looks like the term power PLANT is taking on a new meaning!


Andrei, V., Ucoski, G. M., Pornrungroj, C., Uswachoke, C., Wang, Q., Achilleos, D. S., Kasap, H., Sokol, K. P., Jagt, R. A., Lu, H., Lawson, T., Wagner, A., Pike, S. D., Wright, D. S., Hoye, R. L., MacManus-Driscoll, J. L., Joyce, H. J., Friend, R. H., & Reisner, E. (2022). Floating perovskite-BIVO4 devices for Scalable Solar Fuel production. Nature, 608(7923), 518–522. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04978-6