Nocera at Sundance

February 4th, 2013

A short video starring Dan Nocera was runner-up for an award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival:


Pretty cool.

15 Responses to “Nocera at Sundance”

  1. prunesmith Says:

    I agree that this is cool for only ONE reason, and that is because it gets people talking artificial photosynthesis and alternative energy.

    Not cool: Dan Nocera himself
    SUPER not cool: Dan Nocera pretending to work in a lab whilst not wearing safety glasses, gloves, or a lab coat


  2. prunesmith Says:

    Err, talking about.

    I accidentally a word.

  3. Chemjobber Says:

    I think it’s amusing that Nocera allowed them to basically pretend that he doesn’t have an army of workers backing him up; who the hell is “we”, anyway?

  4. milkshake Says:

    I hate propaganda and salesmanship presented as a “vision”. What Nocera is not saying is that sunlight energy density (watts/square meter) is rather low even if you live in Florida. He is not saying that hydrogen totally sucks as a practical fuel, and so on. That cheaper, simplier and more efficient alternatives exist already (for example my friend built a simple black pane-based heat adsorber filled with propylene glycol on his house roof that pre-heats the water that goes into his boiler so he cuts on the electricity bill when he showers.)

    “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

  5. frixi Says:

    Nocera introduces the new iLeaf: faster, thiner and cooler.

    One more thing…

  6. peer review Says:


    “however, we were indeed able to amplify a 16s gene fragment and so my impression is that As substitution does not seem to affect the recognition of taq polymerase”

  7. Hufsnagel Says:

    How was the self healing part of the catalyst designed? Was that before or after the ligand fell off the cobalt complex they were studying?

  8. eugene Says:

    “What Nocera is not saying is that sunlight energy density (watts/square meter) is rather low even if you live in Florida.”

    I strongly disagree. It’s about 2kW per square meter in Florida I’m guessing, and it’s a lot. Since the USA used 0.7TW (from stuff I found on the internet), it is low in comparison, but that’s a huge amount of power nonetheless, even if you can get it at 10% efficiency. And biomass is produced at 1-3% efficiency.

  9. wotan Says:

    “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

    What is success? Fame for the name, money in the bank, and who cares about the technology. And so many people are fooled that it doesn’t matter about nature. Keep delaying while the money keeps rolling in.

  10. Untenured Prof Says:

    Nocera catches a lot of grief (a lot of it justified) for being a ‘used car salesman’ – but at least he knows how to work the publicity machine. If we truly want to have a figure of public prominence, like a Carl Sagan or Neil Degrasse Tyson, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn those academics that do put themselves out there in the public eye (though please don’t let it be Nocera! 😉 ).

  11. milkshake Says:

    Eugene: I call bullshit on you. And you are lazy too. 5 minutes on Wikipedia, one can find these numbers

    “Sunlight’s composition at ground level, per square meter, with the sun at the zenith, is about 527 watts of infrared radiation, 445 watts of visible light, and 32 watts of ultraviolet radiation.”

    The absoluet maximum you can get, in vacuum, while orbiting Earth (1 AU from sun) is 1,370 W/m2

    Since the artificial leaf will only utilize the UV/vis part of the spectra (infrared photons are not energetic enough to split water) at 10% efficiency you would get the top output 50W per square meter (for maybe thousand hours per year, and another few thousands at significantly lesser power, in Florida). Those artificial leaf panels would have to be put somewhere and protected from wind damage, and so on.

  12. eugene Says:

    milkshake, I am not lazy. I checked for about half an hour and got an average value of 1400 watts per meter squared from the internets by different sources, including your first link on wikipedia. I did miss that ground level quote, where it says 1000 W/m2. I assumed it was an average that included the higher latitudes which do not have direct sunlight, but I could not find anything attesting to that on wiki, looks like you were better than me at that. I increased the value a bit for Florida, but I’m not sure I’m doing an accurate thing there. You mentioned W/m2 in your first post, so I wasn’t about to divide it into infrared and visible since I thought you were arguing mostly about all solar power, but yes, from my nukelar physics class I know that blackbody radiators at about the sun’s temperature produce about half their photons as infrared.

    10% is what we have now, and protecting from wind damage is not a big deal when you consider all the infrastructure costs of the oil enterprise. Making energy on site and not transporting it saves a lot of money. It you’re worried about wind damage, then you can buy these things: It’s an engineering problem for now. With 20% efficiency, solar power will be very competitive. Infrastructure costs should be below, or competitive with the oil/gas extraction enterprise.

  13. eugene Says:

    I lookded some more. This is a better wiki link:

  14. Cupric Says:

    Lot of haters up in here.

  15. Brendan Says:

    I do wish they would have shown his group in action rather than making him look like a one man Bell Labs but people need to stop giving him grief for trying hard to sell his work. Thomas Edison was a huge self promoter but history doesn’t often cover that aspect of him. That’s probably because that approach was more common in his day and, because his inventions were so successful. In any case, let the scientist be judged by his science. In Nocera’s case I’d argue this is pretty great science.

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