The idea of science emulating nature has been around for a long time. Don’t fix what ain’t broke, right? If something has had millions of years to evolve, why try to find a design better?
Well, MIT followed this school of thought and made an artificial leaf, which generates electricity using photosynthesis. Artificial leaves have been around for a long time but have not really been useful; they either didn’t last long, didn’t do much, or were made out of rare materials.
This one is made out of common materials, like silicon, and lasts a lot longer than other artificial leaves. On top of that, it can produce enough power to keep a home lit for a day, if you just give it one gallon of water. But it’s extremely unlikely that it can generate the day’s worth of power in a day.
So if you, say, had lots of these, and lots of gallons of water—maybe 365 of them and 365 gallons of water—you’d generate enough to power a home for a year, and it would generate it fast enough to actually do it.
MIT has been enlisted by a company in India called Tata Group to make small, refrigerator-sized power plants (ohohoho) out of these. You might guess that India would want to use these to raise the quality of life for their poor.