Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Good news for solar power

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An efficient and inexpensive way to store energy for use when the sun isn’t shining:

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn’t shine. Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today’s announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.”

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera’s lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun’s energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan’s new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity — whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it’s easy to set up, Nocera said. “That’s why I know this is going to work. It’s so easy to implement,” he said.

‘GIANT LEAP’ FOR CLEAN ENERGY

Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world’s energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet’s energy needs for one year.

James Barber, a leader in the study of photosynthesis who was not involved in this research, called the discovery by Nocera and Kanan a “giant leap” toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale.

“This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind,” said Barber, the Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London. “The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem.”

‘JUST THE BEGINNING’

Currently available electrolyzers, which split water with electricity and are often used industrially, are not suited for artificial photosynthesis because they are very expensive and require a highly basic (non-benign) environment that has little to do with the conditions under which photosynthesis operates.

More engineering work needs to be done to integrate the new scientific discovery into existing photovoltaic systems, but Nocera said he is confident that such systems will become a reality.

“This is just the beginning,” said Nocera, principal investigator for the Solar Revolution Project funded by the Chesonis Family Foundation and co-Director of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center. “The scientific community is really going to run with this.”

Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2008 at 2:21 pm

One Response

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  1. Have you considered using solar power system as an electricity source for your home?

    There are many reasons why you should be using solar power, but here are just the most important ones:

    Solar systems are more efficient then other power sources

    Yes, that is true! By using solar power for your home power supply, you will save up to 85% on your monthly electricity bill. Sun energy is captured through solar panels and converted into electricity which can be used to power your entire home. This is for sure also a great way to save money.

    You reduce your electricity demands

    We need electricity for so many things in our homes; heating, air condition, refrigerators, owens, computers… and when you use solar power panels you remarkably reduce your demands for electricity. This of course has a huge impact on lowering your monthly electricity bill. The more things there are in your home that need power to operate, the more it makes sense to use solar panels as a power source for your home.

    Solar panels do not have a negative effect on the Planet

    This is probably the most important reason why you should consider building solar panels for your home. They do not put off any pollutants such as carbon dioxide, so you don’t affect the Earth’s atmosphere in a negative way. Instead, you will be doing your part to help save the Earth.

    Solar panels can be put pretty much anywhere

    They can be placed on a lot of places, and when you place them on your roof, you do not see them or even know they are there. If for any reason they can not be placed on the roof you can place them anywhere as long as there is enough sun and no obstacles in the way.

    These are not the only reasons for using solar power for your home electricity supply. If you do a little research you will discover even more reasons.

    If you live in the US, you will find this interesting – you will get paid for implementing solar power in your home.
    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar tax credits are outlined as follows;

    * Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credits
    “Consumers who install solar energy systems (including solar water heating and solar electric systems), small wind systems, geothermal heat pumps, and residential fuel cell and microturbine systems can receive a 30% tax credit for systems placed in service before December 31, 2016; the previous tax credit cap no longer applies.”
    Find out more, visit
    Solar Panel Building

    Like

    Marty Brown

    12 March 2010 at 9:29 am


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