Creating Fuel Cells With Solar Power?
MIT chemists have developed a means to electrolyze water at room temperature with photovoltaic cells.
A new catalyst makes it feasible to split water with solar power.
MIT chemists say the catalyst, used in conjunction with cheap photovoltaic solar panels, could lead to inexpensive, simple systems that use water to store the energy from sunlight.
In the process, the scientists may have cleared the major roadblock on the long road to fossil fuel independence: Reducing the on-again, off-again nature of many renewable power sources.
The catalyst enables the electrolysis system to function efficiently at room temperature and at ordinary pressure. Like a reverse fuel cell, it splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. By recombining the molecules with a standard fuel cell, the O2 and H2 could then be used to generate energy on demand.
It’s still up in the air as to whether this would be cost-effective, given that one of the catalyst components is platinum. Still–one of the things holding back solar is the fact that it can’t generate power continuously. So if these chemists have developed a more effective means of storing solar power, that will go a long way towards making it a more viable form of energy. This is definitely something worth keeping an eye on–especially if the technique can be adapted to less expensive catalysts.
(cross posted to Heretical Ideas)