Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Researchers discover inexpensive method for spliting H2O

Shaun Saunders sends in a really exciting article concerning one of the major drawbacks to low cost solar and fuel cell power generation and storage. Up until now, the cost of storing the energy from the sun or splitting water molecules has been prohibitive. Thus pushing the tech into fringe markets. Now researchers from MIT have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy. Here is an excerpt from the article explaining the process:
  • The key component in ... (the) 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.
Though still in it's early stages, the implications are clear. Once implemented, cheap production of oxygen and hydrogen gases will lead to power generation at extremely lower cost which at the very least will reduce our dependence of foreign fuel supplies. Another benefit will be a much smaller carbon footprint.

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