Friday, May 14, 2010

Energy Storage Solutions part one


Storing Energy

Almost two years ago I wrote about the discovery of a new catalyst electrode that could revolutionise energy storage.

The electrode could, in a far more efficient and less costly way than ever previously possible, split water into its elements of Oxygen and Hydrogen. The hydrogen thus produced is a great fuel for all sorts of devices including fuel cells and cars!

The work being done is at MIT by Professor Daniel Nocera and his team, and now the news comes that the team have discovered another new electrode material (perhaps even more than one), which again is based on inexpensive and widely available elements.

In 2008, Professor Nocera and his team reported the discovery of a durable and low-cost material for the oxygen-producing electrode which was based on the element cobalt. The team now report the discovery of yet another material that can even more efficiently function as the oxygen-producing electrode. This time the material is based on nickel borate, an even more abundant and inexpensive material than the earlier compound.

The ongoing MIT research indicates that the first experimental electrode was not a simple freak and additionally it suggests that there may be a group of similar materials to be developed.

Hundredfold Gas Production Increase!

The rate of gas production from these new catalysts has been increased a hundredfold from the level reported two years ago!!!!!

The earlier work was focused on the oxygen-producing electrode; the hydrogen-producing electrode at the time was based on an expensive platinum catalyst. The team have now overcome this limitation and expense and have totally eliminated the need for platinum. This part of the team’s research however has not as yet been formally reported.

Long term, Professor Nocera envisages domestic systems in which rooftop solar panels, and perhaps other generating devices, would provide electricity to a home. Electricity, which is not used at the time of generation, would go to his “electrolyzer” - which would split water into its elements of oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen would be stored in tanks until needed. When more power was required, the hydrogen would be fed to a fuel cell where it would generate electricity.

The research teams work has already been taken a step further by the creation of a company, called Sun Catalytix which aims to commercially develop the system in the next two years.

The research program was recently awarded a major grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Advanced Research Energy Projects Agency”.


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