Solar-Powered Fuel Cells Easy As Photosynthesis

A new discovery by MIT scientists lead by Daniel Nocera and Matthew Kanan may make oxygen/hydrogen fuel cells a practical reality.

The key to their discovery is a new catalyst that can produce oxygen gas from water, while another produces hydrogen gas. It consists of 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. The process works at room temperature in neutral pH water; it's easy to set up.

The greatest barrier to the use of fuel cells, which combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce energy and have pure water as a 'waste' product, is the production of hydrogen. Typically, this is done in a way that wastes energy; it burns more energy than it produces.

Nocera and Kanan were inspired by photosynthesis, which is Nature's way of taking the Sun's energy and using it to power the growth of plants and then store that energy.


(MIT energy storage system video w/Nocera interview video)

If this process can be implemented as a consumer product for use in homes, it could make everyone's house a "power plant" and minimizes the need for large power production facilities.

During the daytime, the sun's energy is used to power your house and run MIT's energy process to store energy as hydrogen fuel.


(Store power during the day)

At night, the stored hydrogen can be burned in a fuel cell to provide power for the home, and to charge your electric car for the next day.


(Use the hydrogen in your fuel cell at night)

Experts are greatly impressed with the technique.

"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."

Professor Nocera hopes that this technology will be widely available within ten years for homeowners.

From MIT solar revolution.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/4/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )

Related News Stories - (" Engineering ")

Blaux Your Personal Commuter Cooling Unit
A cooling unit had to be strapped to every commuter's back, by law.

SunnyFive 'Window' Has Full Spectrum Angled Natural Light
'On the ceilings are screens.' - Stanislaw Lem, 1961.

Liftware Level, Google's Smart Spoon
'The result was indeed marvelous... I did not stagger and I did not reel.' - Ellis Parker Butler, 1926.

Prufrock The Newest Boring Machine
'It sounds to me as though you had invented a kind of metal earthworm...'

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Powdered Regolith Propulsion
'... filling their great tanks with the finely divided dust which the ionic rockets would spit out in electrified jets.'

Ford's SafeCap, Opposite Of Niven and Barnes' Napcap
'In the napcap a client became an instant yoga master...'

Would You Get 'Chipped'? Michigan May Ban Employers
'Employees above a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors...'

Tesla Autopilot: What Does An Autonomous Car See When It Looks At The Road?
'Jeremiah is a sports-model to begin with and that kind is awfully hot-tempered.'

DNA Controls Swarms Of Molecular Robots
'They exist in loose swarms...'

Tether Asteroids To Save Us All
'If anything can glue the asteroids back into the planet they once were, magnology will do it.'

Blaux Your Personal Commuter Cooling Unit
A cooling unit had to be strapped to every commuter's back, by law.

3D Printed Damascus Steel Now Possible
'...lined with durite, that strange close-packed laboratory product.'

R9X Hellfire Missile With Long Blades Kills Queda Leader
'He was still roaring when the knife missile flicked past him...'

Would You Swallow An Origami Robot?
'Swallow it in an emergency--it goes down easily and works just as well inside as outside.'

Perhaps You Might Be Interested In Habitable Exoplanet Moon Real Estate
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Blurry Face Photos Made 60 Times Sharper
Perfect tool for blade runners.

SpaceX Will Build Floating Spaceports!
'...a single perfectly level platform, which rose so high above the water that it was not splashed by the waves.'

Fast Radio Bursts And Space Beacons For Interstellar Navigation
'Every beacon has a code signal as part of its radiation...'

Robot Garbage Trucks Visualized
'It was a bulky, shining cylinder over twenty metres long.'

Clarke Was Right, Artificial Intelligences DO Dream
'Of course you will dream. No one knows why."

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.