"Wherever you are on the planet, you might not always have access to a power grid," Noel explained. "But there is always some sun. With this device, you can harvest the sun's energy efficiently and use it to convert molecules into something useful."
Since the research team works and lives in the Netherlands, where sunny days are not an unlimited resource, they were particularly interested in creating a solution that worked even when there was not abundant sun light. At that, they succeeded.
"Even an experiment on a cloudy day demonstrated that the chemical production was 40 percent higher than in a similar experiment without LSC material," Noel said in a press release.
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The industrial production of chemicals is often perceived as dirty and a contributor to pollution. But this solution is simple, portable, and clean. Instead of scaling production of a chemical reaction to a large factory to create a drug, it builds the necessary reaction into a small device that can be easily transported to where the elements are available and the chemical solution is needed.
"I also hope that our invention will help to make the chemical industry cleaner," Noel said. "And that it would alter the negative public perception of chemistry."
The leaf is pretty and illuminates slightly as a result of the chemical reaction. So perhaps it will even become a useful architectural design element. Natural beauty? That's something rarely hoped for in an industrial chemistry plant.
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