Solar Breakthrough

This week there was an article in Science Daily that hearlds a breakthorough in storing energy prdocued by solar heat and radiation.

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.

Hey, sounds good.  Simple, inexpensive all good properties.  I can see all the residential fixtures going in now.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun.

Alrighty, sounding even better.  People are thinking about this in production terms not pure research.

Then things start getting a little iffy….

…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.

Hmm, home based hydrogen production and storage.  Not sure I want that too close to the kids, maybe these guys are not thinking in the production mindset.

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.

To shorten the story, these guys use a three stage process that takes electricity from a source (photovoltaic), and runs the current through electrodes that are coated in catalysts to separate oxygen and hydrogen for storage to power a fuel cell.  It goes on to explain that the catalysts are cobalt and platinum.

Simple? Relatively.   Cheap? not so much.  Safe?  Well it’s still research so… not yet.

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