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Thread: 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

  1. #1
    Senior Member bill j.'s Avatar
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    'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

    'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution
    Scientists mimic essence of plants' energy storage system

    Watch a video here: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/oxygen-0731.html

    Anne Trafton, News Office
    July 31, 2008

    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.

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    Senior Member bill j.'s Avatar
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    Solar Power Breakthrough Stores Energy for Later Use

    Published on Monday, August 4, 2008 by Environmental News Service (ENS)
    Solar Power Breakthrough Stores Energy for Later Use

    CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts - Within 10 years, homeowners could power their homes in daylight with solar photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water to power a household fuel cell. If the new process developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds acceptance in the marketplace, electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.0804 07

    “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, senior author of a paper describing the simple, inexpensive, and efficient process for storing solar energy in the July 31 issue of the journal “Science.”

    “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon,” Nocera said.

    Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is expensive and inefficient. But Nocera and his team of researchers have hit upon an elegant solution.

    Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera’s lab, have developed a new process that will allow the Sun’s energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen can be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power buildings, homes or electric cars - day or night.

    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 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 in plants during photosynthesis. more http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2...8-08-02-01.asp

  3. #3
    You can bet the oil/coal/nuclear lobby is going to try and nip this one in the bud, but I support the solar gang.

  4. #4
    Great! But what about plastic? All options should be full speed ahead! I like rooftop units that do not use batteries.

  5. #5
    Senior Member flicka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcripeq
    Great! But what about plastic?
    This is promising.
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  6. #6
    Thanks for the post. I have done quite a bit of reading about solar energy and the photo voltaic technologies available at MIT's website and also at a website that my friend referred me to called http://www.uspowerco.com. This company apparently installs, sells, designs and builds PV panels and other energy efficient equipment for residential and industry purposes. Their staff sounded very helpful as well. Also, you may want to read up on Stanford University's Global and Energy Project results at http://gcep.stanford.edu/research/fa...tovoltaic.html. Thanks again!

  7. #7

    Smile Yes Solar Power Is All Good News!

    Reading your article warmed my heart as it is clear the word is spreading fast.

    Let me say that I am the webmaster of a blog on the subject of solar power for homes, and not a day goes by these days when I do not come across yet more good positive news.

    In the last month I have read about solar sheets as thick as credit cards supplied in rolls with sticky backs to simply attach to warehouse flat roofs, I've watched youtube videos of people getting current from the light of the moon (yes really!) I heard of developments to coat steel so the solar panel aspect is pre-built into the steel girders, the list goes on and on. I've even read how the Pope has given it his blessing by installing solar panels on the vatican roof!

    But the best news no question is the recent development since the credit crisis that has enabled the US senate to give the green light to massive tax credit facilities that is going to make installing solar power for homes so much more affordable. The average cost will drop from US$40,000 to US$22,000 meaning people can get their money back within 7 years, and get free clean electiricty frm then for at least anothe 20 years! How good is that? :-)

    Here is the link for more info:

    http://www.gosolarpowerforhomes.com/...s-irresistable

    While you are there, take some time to look around. People keep telling me how the site cheers them up. Im considering renaming the site 'Positive News' or something!

    All the best,

    Sam Deane
    http://www.gosolarpowerforhomes.com
    Last edited by samd123; 10-19-2008 at 08:53 AM. Reason: correcting spelling mistake

  8. #8
    sounds great. done alot with $10 mill , maybe the feds or some investment company could come up with $100 mill and knock the time frame down to 5 years.
    oh well

  9. #9
    Senior Member DaleB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by samd123 View Post
    [...]The average cost will drop from US$40,000 to US$22,000 meaning people can get their money back within 7 years, and get free clean electiricty frm then for at least anothe 20 years! How good is that? :-)
    [...]
    http://www.gosolarpowerforhomes.com
    my PV setup generates ~2500kwhr per month and it only cost $25k, including ~12hour battery backup (which i would not do again until batteries are much better). $40k average seems really high! i have a metal roof with prefab brackets, so maybe that made it cheaper? i dunno...my whole system with rainwater collection + plumbing to toilets and hose bibs + PV setup + batteries + solar hot water was less than $50K!!! i had to foot the bill for a metal roof to do high volume rain reclamation, but it's been worth it so far. if i were to add R/O filter at sinks we could drink it.
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