Friday, August 1, 2008

Photovoltaic Breakthrough ?

Contrary to what you hear in the drive-by DNC parrot media, development work is ongoing on alternate energy sources, especially battery and solar technologies. The wide array of recent portable devices could not be possible if it weren't for battery technology advances. Work is continuing at a furious pace in all sectors of electrical power, electricity powers the world. And you thought it was gasoline. Energy end use in the USA has long since crossed the line from majority fossil fuels to majority electricity. Well yes, of course, fossil fuels generate electricity, converting one form to another, but it's the 'end use' that has switched.

Now comes MIT, touting a discovery that they have made that they say will supply solar power 24/7, rain or shine. Is this the photovoltaic breakthrough that has been pursued ever since the first solar cells went for a space ride? Maybe, maybe not ... Time will tell if it works out when the processes are converted to volume manufacturing.
MIT claims 24/7 Solar Power

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have combined a liquid catalyst with photovoltaic cells to achieve what they claim is a solar energy system that could generate electricity around the clock.

A liquid catalyst was added to water before electrolysis to achieve what the researchers claim is almost 100-percent efficiency. When combined with photovoltaic cells to store energy chemically, the resulting solar energy systems could generate electricity around the clock, the MIT team said.

"The hard part of getting water to split is not the hydrogen -- platinum as a catalyst works fine for the hydrogen. But platinum works very poorly for oxygen, making you use much more energy," said MIT chemistry professor Daniel Nocera. "What we have done is made a catalyst work for the oxygen part without any extra energy. In fact, with our catalyst almost 100 percent of the current used for electrolysis goes into making oxygen and hydrogen."

Nickel oxide catalysts are currently used to boost the efficiency of electrolyzers, and they worked equally well in MIT's formulation, Nocera acknowledged. He added that the toxicity of nickel oxide forces the use of expensive, hermetically-sealed water containers. MIT's patented catalyst formulation is "green," Nocera said, and can be used in inexpensive open containers.

"Nickel oxide can't be used around anything else in the environment because of corrosion -- even the carbon dioxide in the air will react with it to make carbonates," said Nocera. "But our catalyst uses abundant materials that don't react with environment."

MIT's patented formulation of cobalt phosphate was dissolved in water. When the electrical current is passed through it to initiate electrolysis, the catalyst attached itself to the oxygen electrode to increase its efficiency. When the electrical current was turned off, the cobalt phosphate dissolved back into water.

The simplicity of the process enables basic electrolyzers to be used, the researchers said.

"Because our catalyst is green, the machines that perform electrolysis can be much less expensive than they are today, since they don't need to be protected from environmental contaminants," said Nocera.

Currently, MIT is working with photovoltaic cell manufacturers to incorporate electrolysis using their catalyst into solar energy systems. By combining the two, excess capacity during the day could be stored as hydrogen and oxygen, then used in fuel cells at night when needed.

"Solar cell makers can add super-cheap electrolyzers to their system so that they work 24/7 -- during the day making hydrogen and oxygen, then at night recombining it in fuel cells to generate electricity," Nocera predicted.

Matthew Kanan, a MIT postdoctoral fellow, assisted in the research. Funding was provided by the MIT Energy Initiative, the Chesonis Family Foundation, the Solar Revolution Project and the National Science Foundation.

You won't run your car with this technology, but you may run your laptop. It's all energy. I predict in the long term, hydrogen transport fuel will in fact be the future. It's possible, some technology like this will provide the hydrogen, that has been the stumbling block for quite some time. In the beginning, autos ran on alcohol and diesels ran on peanut oil, but those technologies are so dated now ... They were quickly changed out for the much better suited petroleum 'alternatives'. Odd how things work, isn't it.

1 comment:

GerryH said...

Excellent piece on MIT photovoltaic breakthrough. The summary conclusion is profoundly 'correct'!

In spite of all the cheap distractions, we are sooooo very close to discovering the key freeing access to Hydrogen “on-demand”, as an energy source.

Hydrogen energy is the consummate answer - though by no means ‘the end’ of vital petroleum byproducts. Despite the development promise of this ‘duel’ energy median the {very powerful} petroleum cartels appear Hell-bent on opposing, curbing, and generally constraining public News or open discussion about hydrogen, (while at the same time they loudly “promote” limited-application or dead-end diversions such as ethanol, wind and PV).

Only one prominent statesman has openly dared to challenge the political constraints and diversions designed to hold back new technologies; Newt Gingrich.
You can go here to see & listen to one of Newt’s most riveting and cogent speeches: . If you are not merely another blind Leftist apparatchik - you will be gripped by the crystal clear reason and logic that makes up this grand American speech.

Robert G. Harris