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View Full Version : U.S. Issues 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution


Bill Parcells
08-05-2008, 07:45 PM
In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.

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.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have 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.

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. 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.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

'Giant leap' for clean energy
Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world's energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.

James Barber, a leader in the study of photosynthesis who was not involved in this research, called the discovery by Nocera and Kanan a "giant leap" toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale.

"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."

'Just the beginning'
Currently available electrolyzers, which split water with electricity and are often used industrially, are not suited for artificial photosynthesis because they are very expensive and require a highly basic (non-benign) environment that has little to do with the conditions under which photosynthesis operates.

More engineering work needs to be done to integrate the new scientific discovery into existing photovoltaic systems, but Nocera said he is confident that such systems will become a reality.

"This is just the beginning," said Nocera, principal investigator for the Solar Revolution Project funded by the Chesonis Family Foundation and co-director of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center. "The scientific community is really going to run with this."

Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

The project is part of the MIT Energy Initiative, a program designed to help transform the global energy system to meet the needs of the future and to help build a bridge to that future by improving today's energy systems. MITEI Director Ernest Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, noted that "this discovery in the Nocera lab demonstrates that moving up the transformation of our energy supply system to one based on renewables will depend heavily on frontier basic science."

The success of the Nocera lab shows the impact of a mixture of funding sources - governments, philanthropy, and industry. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Chesonis Family Foundation, which gave MIT $10 million this spring to launch the Solar Revolution Project, with a goal to make the large scale deployment of solar energy within 10 years.


Link (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/oxygen-0731.html)

StcChief
08-05-2008, 07:51 PM
Big energy in trouble long term. sell tech to ME for gazillions of dollars or let 'em suck sand

BucEyedPea
08-05-2008, 08:06 PM
Wel, well, Dimension posts something positive instead of just bashing liberals.
Must have left Joisy for a short spell. :D

chiefforlife
08-05-2008, 08:07 PM
That is incredible and not a moment to soon. This is exactly what the planet needs. Incredible!

Bill Parcells
08-05-2008, 08:29 PM
Wel, well, Dimension posts something positive instead of just bashing liberals.
Must have left Joisy for a short spell. :D

But I like bashing liberals. I just can't control myself.

LOL! All kidding aside, this article was very cool.

'Hamas' Jenkins
08-05-2008, 08:31 PM
Yeah, but will this cut into Big Oil's profits?

HC_Chief
08-05-2008, 08:32 PM
Gotta love the nerds at MIT :thumb:

'Hamas' Jenkins
08-05-2008, 08:36 PM
Gotta love the nerds at MIT :thumb:

Not all of them. Trust me.

Bill Parcells
08-05-2008, 08:38 PM
Not all of them. Trust me.

I knew it! Hamas probably wrote a thesis on this type of solar hypothesis a long time ago.

kcfanintitanhell
08-05-2008, 08:40 PM
The aliens that have been hanging around for the last 70 years or so finally threw out a bone.

Baconeater
08-05-2008, 08:42 PM
Big Energy will find a way to crush this, there's no way they're going to allow us to have energy independence. No ****ing way at all.

'Hamas' Jenkins
08-05-2008, 08:43 PM
I knew it! Hamas probably wrote a thesis on this type of solar hypothesis a long time ago.

Not exactly. I had a very close friend who went to MIT and died under very mysterious circumstances...

Bill Parcells
08-05-2008, 08:47 PM
Not exactly. I had a very close friend who went to MIT and died under very mysterious circumstances...

Dude, do you know how many MIT students they fish out of the Charles river every year? A LOT!

'Hamas' Jenkins
08-05-2008, 08:50 PM
Dude, do you know how many MIT students they fish out of the Charles river every year? A LOT!

Yeah, my friend was one of them.

kcfanintitanhell
08-05-2008, 08:53 PM
Not exactly. I had a very close friend who went to MIT and died under very mysterious circumstances...

Then we need to keep track of this....I'm serious...I remember reading about the 20 million dollar award last year for anyone who was able to build a car capable of getting 100 miles per gallon and able to be mass produced. At the onset, there were many promising innovations being brought out. Since then, I haven't heard anything.

Chief Henry
08-05-2008, 08:54 PM
Dude, do you know how many MIT students they fish out of the Charles river every year? A LOT!

What is up with that ?

'Hamas' Jenkins
08-05-2008, 08:58 PM
What is up with that ?

Highly motivated people with a lot on the line (self-imposed many times) who think if they get a bad grade that their life is over.

Supposedly my friend was seen leaving a frat house on roller blades at 4 am in the middle of a snowstorm :shrug:

banyon
08-05-2008, 09:03 PM
Big Energy will find a way to crush this, there's no way they're going to allow us to have energy independence. No ****ing way at all.

They'll buy the patent rights, just like they did with the last few efficient solar batteries. Then they'll file it away.


http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y268/RottenFoxBreath/Raiders_Of_The_Lost_Ark_Government_.jpg

kcfanintitanhell
08-05-2008, 09:15 PM
[QUOTE=banyon;4893870]They'll buy the patent rights, just like they did with the last few efficient solar batteries. Then they'll file it away.

Just curious-but what sort of legalese does it take to open up the files of stored away patents?

Bill Parcells
08-05-2008, 09:17 PM
What is up with that ?

There is a very high rate of suicides in that institution, for exactly the reason Hamas gave earlier.

banyon
08-05-2008, 09:18 PM
They'll buy the patent rights, just like they did with the last few efficient solar batteries. Then they'll file it away.

Just curious-but what sort of legalese does it take to open up the files of stored away patents?

They'd be legally owned trade secrets, you could not disclose them in open court without moving heaven and earth.

kcfanintitanhell
08-05-2008, 09:23 PM
They'd be legally owned trade secrets, you could not disclose them in open court without moving heaven and earth.

Would that not be something a presidential candidate would be willing to move heaven and earth for?

BucEyedPea
08-05-2008, 09:30 PM
Not exactly. I had a very close friend who went to MIT and died under very mysterious circumstances...

I used to go to free-market seminars at MIT after work. Most were still alive afterwards.

kcfanintitanhell
08-05-2008, 09:33 PM
I used to go to free-market seminars at MIT after work. Most were still alive afterwards.

Damn! You should consider yourself lucky!!:D

BucEyedPea
08-05-2008, 09:36 PM
Damn! You should consider yourself lucky!!:D

I figure, the Cambridge commies prolly did it. They were taking down all the free-market seminar's posters...and some even attended.