A "Giant Leap" For Clean Energy: Hydrogen Production Breakthrough from MIT

drawing of a water molecule image

graphic of hydrogen bonds (in green) between oxygen (red) and hydrogen (white): Focus

One problem with wind and solar power is that for either to be able to provide a round-the-clock source of reliable power, you need some sort of back up power source. Or you need to have some way of storing the excess energy produced during the day for use at night or when the wind isn't blowing. Well, though it's a long way from being commercially deployed, a new development by MIT chemist Daniel Nocera may bring the holy grail of renewable energy storage a bit closer to hand.
Cobalt-Phosphorus Catalyst Used to Split Water at Room Temperature
The Guardian is reporting that Nocera has developed a catalyst from cobalt and phosphorus which can be used to split water at room temperature. Nocera, "I'm using cheap, Earth-abundant materials that you can mass-manufacture. As long as you can charge the surface, you can create the catalyst and it doesn't get any cheaper than that."

Implications for Fuel Cells and Renewable Energy
Nocera describes the implications of his research on renewable energy:

You could imagine, during the day you have a photovoltaic cell, you take some that electricity and use it in your house, then take the other part of that electricity for my catalyst, feed the catalyst water and you get hydrogen and oxygen.

These could then be recombined in a fuel cell later in the day,

So I've made your house a gas station and a power station. It's all enabled because we can use light plus water to make a chemical fuel, which is hydrogen and oxygen.

"A Major Discovery"
Describing Nocera's work, James Barber of Imperial College London, and a leading researcher on artificial photosynthesis described this work as a "giant leap" for clean energy. He added,
This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind. The importance of [this] 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.

You can listen to a Science magazine podcast interview with Daniel Nocera for a bit more information on this work.

via :: The Guardian
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