If a plant can do it, Armand Paul Alivisatos can probably do it better. When it comes to photosynthesis, the process of converting sunlight into energy, no scientist understands the complexities of Mother Nature like the University of California Berkeley researcher, a leader in the quest for clean, renewable energy. In a 2000 article, Alivisatos revealed that non-metal nanocrystals – round clusters of atoms – could be manipulated into rod formations measuring a thousand times thinner than a human hair. These wire-like structures, applicable in microscopic electronic devices, play a crucial role in duplicating photosynthesis as it happens inside a leaf, powering the next generation of hybrid solar cells. Instead of acting like plants – which convert sunlight into carbohydrates – Alivisatos and his team at Berkeley Lab work to transform energy from the sun into sustainable liquid fuel that could one day power our daily lives and reduce the world’s carbon footprint.