Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Using Sun's Energy to Split Water Means Solar Power All Night

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the party-like-it's-2099 dept.

Power 557

phorm writes "Reuters is carrying an article about a recent MIT development which may pave the way for solar-energy to be collected for use in low-input periods. According to Reuters, the discovery of the a new catalyst for separating hydrogen+oxygen from water requires only 10% of the electricity of current methods. This would allow storage-cells to function as a form of battery for other forms of energy-collection, such as solar panels. The new method is also much safer (and likely environmentally friendly) than current methods, which require the use of a dangerously caustic environment, and specialized storage containers." sanjosanjo points out coverage of the process at EE Times, which features the MIT group's press release.

cancel ×

557 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

I have my doubts... but, (5, Insightful)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425357)

"...with our catalyst almost 100 percent of the current used for electrolysis goes into making oxygen and hydrogen."

If that is true (although I definitely have my doubts, as tales and empty promises of the past have made all of us highly skeptical when we read something like this), then it should open the road for a significantly more efficient means of producing hydrogen for hydrogen powered cars / devices. Hell a car equipped with a solar cell could just bake during the day to recharge itself and be ready to go for the commute home come 5pm. Though until I hear a confirmation of MIT's findings from another university/respected source, I hold on to my severe doubts about this.

BIG OIL JUST MADE 11 BILLION $ IN PURE PROFIT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425395)

THEY DON'T NEED SOLAR POWER OR WANT IT

THEY JUST WANT PROFIT $$$$

Important Stuff
Please try to keep posts on topic.
Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads.
Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said.
Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about.
Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page)
If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.
If you are having a problem with accounts or comment posting, please yell for help.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425445)

I'd rather that we spend the money on bike paths. We all need the exercise.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425509)

> I'd rather that we spend the money on bike paths. We all need the exercise.

There's a practical limit on how far you can bike to/from work.

Some people drive an hour or more to/from work - can you imagine how much time they would waste biking each day?

Never mind that - some people have disabilities or medical conditions that prohibit strenuous exercise. Some people live in hilly areas. Some areas have poor weather most of the year.

I'm all for building more bike paths, even if only to benefit the minority that can actually use them.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425753)

Compared to the amount of money spent on vehicle infrastructure, and the resultant externalities(obesity, noise/air pollution, etc.) the cost of bike paths is a no brainer. I think it's the vast majority "that can actually use them". If you are too weak to propel yourself around for trips less than 6 mi.(10 km) then perhaps you nature should cull you from the herd.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (2, Insightful)

nikanj (799034) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426313)

I'm all for building more bike paths, even if only to benefit the majority that can actually use them.

There, fixed that for you.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (-1)

LordKaT (619540) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425515)

I'd rather spend the money big macs, hookers, and blow.

I'll be dead in a week, but it'll be the best week of my life.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425959)

In fact, forget the Big Macs and blow.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (5, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425525)

"Though until I hear a confirmation of MIT's findings from another university/respected source, I hold on to my severe doubts about this.

MIT isn't really in the habit of making unsubstantiated claims of new discoveries. That's pretty much the purview of startup companies in need of funding and no-name universities looking for grants. MIT et al stake their reputations on their discoveries, and do not generally cry wolf.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426133)

didn't the whole the fiasco of cold fusion come out of MIT?

Re:I have my doubts... but, (5, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426179)

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. In any case, you don't let any researcher (or institution) off the hook because of his popularity - what kind of science would that be?

trade secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425537)

So, likely the fine details will be kept a trade secret for 5 years until they finally get this shit to the public. Thanks capitalism, jerks.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (2, Informative)

Delwin (599872) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425549)

The volume to power of hydrogen is still far too low compared to batteries. Otherwise this could be the breakthrough that finally gets fuel cell cars going - self regeneration of (some) power during the day.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426301)

Who cares about volume? Solar panels can't power a car during the day anyway ('cause you can't fit enough of them on the surface area available on a car), let alone have enough capacity left over to split water for running at night! This technology is all about powering buildings, where hydrogen volume (and solar panel area) are not a problem.

Re:Vaporware (5, Funny)

getnate (518090) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425563)

'nuff said.

Convincing. Except ETA. (1)

Adoxographer (1120207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425623)

Detail looks good on the article, though the projected time frame has a ring of indefinite extension about it. I wonder how many "ready in ten years" developments have taken less than a decade.

I know what you mean about crackpots giving electrolysed water a bad name in the past, but it's MIT so...

Re:I have my doubts... but, (4, Informative)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425687)

There is the slight question of where and how you store your hydrogen and oxygen in the meantime so, especially for small scale "localized" applications.
Lets say your house needs 5000 W. To get through an 8 h dark period, you need 40 kWhr, or 136,000 BTU. That's roughly the energy in 2 lbs of hydrogen. To store that much hydrogen, you either need a balloon of 11 m^3 size, or you need a compressor that allows you to store the hydrogen as compressed gas (what costs energy to do) or to liquefy the hydrogen (what costs even more energy). Alternatively you can adsorb the hydrogen into certain alloys, but then you need to heat them to get the hydrogen back out, again ruining your energy balance, and driving up the cost.
This development can help with the development of a large scale hydrogen infrastructure, but there we're better of with natural gas (of which we're not running out anytime soon, and which has much less technological hurdles in storage).

Re:I have my doubts... but, (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425823)

Why not just leave it stored as water, then, and electrolyze it as needed?

Re:I have my doubts... but, (2, Funny)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426203)

Dude.

1) The hydrogen is used to generate power.
2) To electrolyze water you need power.
3) You suggest we use power that has already been stored *somewhere* to electrolyze water and then use the hydrogen to generate power.
4) Laws of thermodynamics.
5) ???
6) Profit.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (2, Informative)

Bibz (849958) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426245)

The whole point of this technology is to have it pre-electrolyzed. Electrolysis needs energy to be performed (the energy from the sun in that case) so you can get this energy (well, part of it) back when there is no sun.

The oxygen+hydrogen produced by the electrolysis would be the replacement for batteries.

Reclaim hydrogen pressure? (1)

Adoxographer (1120207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425833)

Any idea how efficient a compressed gas engine (turbine?) is with hydrogen as a working fluid?

I haven't, but maybe the pressure is reclaimable. Though compressors heat up don't they, so I suppose that's loss.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425863)

Lets say your house needs 5000 W.

Let's not. That's more power draw than the total available service into most houses; and most houses don't exactly draw at max for 8 hours straight. Divide your numbers by 5, and you have a more reasonable estimate.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426001)

Let's not. That's more power draw than the total available service into most houses;

Where do you live? Afghanistan? I live in a Central American country with crappy electricity and this house is often drawing way more than 5000 W. There are eight computers running, two refrigerators, a large freezer, four air conditioners, a heater in the pool, an electric stove, washer, dryer, and much more.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (5, Funny)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426053)

And they say Americans are energy hogs?

Re:I have my doubts... but, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426227)

A house with 200A service can draw theoretically draw 48000W max. A single central A/C unit can draws 5000W, so during a hot summer night, yes, 5000W is quite possible.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

harryjohnston (1118069) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426247)

I don't think so. I just chose a vacuum cleaner at random from a retailer web site and it uses 2000W. Mainstream electric heaters run from 1500W to 2400W.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (5, Funny)

CynicalTyler (986549) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426285)

I don't think so. I just chose a vacuum cleaner at random from a retailer web site and it uses 2000W

Pro Tip: turn off your vacuum cleaner when you go to bed.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

Linux_ho (205887) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426297)

Is your vacuum/furnace/AC unit drawing its full rated power 24 hours a day? I sure hope not.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1, Interesting)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425949)

There is the slight question of where and how you store your hydrogen and oxygen in the meantime so, especially for small scale "localized" applications.
Lets say your house needs 5000 W. To get through an 8 h dark period, you need 40 kWhr, or 136,000 BTU. That's roughly the energy in 2 lbs of hydrogen. To store that much hydrogen, you either need a balloon of 11 m^3 size, or you need a compressor that allows you to store the hydrogen as compressed gas

Eleven cubic meters is no big deal -- that's a balloon a meter and a half in diameter. You'd have trouble fitting one in your car, but houses have far more room. You can stick it in a corner of your garage, or in the attic, or wherever you've got extra space.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426101)

Strange but my math shows a sphere with radius .75 meters to have a volume of about 1.75 cubic meter. You'd need a radius of around 1.39 to achieve 11 cubic meters...

So, a baloon almost 9 feet across. Not so small. Not huge either. But then the original poster said a house needs 5000W.. that's an incredible amount. Cut that in half, and you can cut your baloon in half too. Just don't do it while it's full!

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

The Dark (159909) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426209)

I think you mean a meter and a half radius (actually 1.38m), thats 2.76 meter diameter, which is probably higher than a lot of garages. It is still doable though, even with the extreme 40 kWhr/night estimate.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426213)

Eleven cubic meters is no big deal -- that's a balloon a meter and a half in diameter.

Perhaps for sufficiently large meters. But with ordinary meters it takes a balloon 3 meters in diameter. This would take up as much garage space as a car.

Although frankly, I wouldn't recommend sticking a giant hydrogen balloon indoors. I mean, yes, hydrogen would be safer in cars than gasoline. But you probably don't want a gigantic leaky hydrogen balloon in your basement when somebody is next to it trying to light a match to get the water heater going. You might inadvertently win an X-prize and a Darwin award at the same time.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (2, Informative)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426303)

Huh?

Volume of a sphere: 4/3 * pi * r^3

d = 1.5.
-> r = 0.75

V = 4/3 * pi * 0.75^3 ~= 1,8 m^3

Your math is correct when we assume a sphere with a radius of 1.5 m (in that case V ~= 14.1 m^3), but that means we are talking about an orb with a 3 meter diameter, which is heigher than most ceilings (3 meters = 9.8 ft for the SI-impaired).

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425841)

"...with our catalyst almost 100 percent of the current used for electrolysis goes into making oxygen and hydrogen."

Hopefully there's enough other current to compress that oxygen and hydrogen into pressurized tanks for recombination.

Yes, both. I'm not keen on letting either of them build up in free air to explosively combustible concentrations in my garage.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426117)

I have my doubts because it's a supposed big breakthrough on more than one front. First, the electricity needed is supposed to drop by roughly an order of magnetude over existing industrial methods, and I'm always a bit skeptical of such big gains.
    But more probably, it's over-hyped because it also eliminates 'specialized storage containers' (as the summary puts it, not exactly what the article says, but it seems fairly close). Taking out some or even all of the caustic substances industrial electrolysis methods now put in the liquid water before splitting it isn't enough to make storage of the end product any simpler - hydrogen is still hydrogen and has its own problems. Electrolysis storage involves specialized liquid storage before and specialized gas storage after, and both have some risks on such a large scale. At best, this improvement only addresses the first half of the process. Until you know whether storing the liquid caustics is actually a bigger risk (on this scale) than storing the hydrogen, you don't know if eliminating that risk makes this technology safe enough overall to make any real difference.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426219)

The currently efficient way of industrial electrolysis starts with steam. An order of magnitude improvement over the current non-steam methods is reasonable, given a magic catylist. I remain skeptical, but it's not unreasonable.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426119)

Well, hydrogen + oxygen + fossil fuel is said to be far more efficient, cleaner, and cooler burning than fossil fuel alone.

According to additional research productized by MIT, for gas engines, it's said to increase efficiency 30% and diesel engines are said to improve 50%. Furthermore, their head guy claims that's the tip of the iceberg. Sorry I don't have the link but likely someone else will know what I'm talking about. It was researched by MIT, spun off into a company, which was purchased by another company, which was purchased by yet another company. The company currently owning it is specifically targeting cleaner emissions and ignoring efficiency benefits in their marketing; so I'm not sure what to make of that. Last I heard, they were making headway with bus and semi sales.

And no, this is not a Geet plasma device. It works by creating plasma from sparking and mixing fuel in an environment which can not sustain combustion. I don't recall the details beyond that.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

ThreeE (786934) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426163)

Even if you had 100% efficiency, there isn't enough incident energy imparted over an eight to nine hour period on the area of a car roof to power the average commute home in the average commuter car. Subtract out things like, say, clouds, and things get even bleaker.

Physics. It's not just a good idea.

Re:I have my doubts... but, (1)

ElBeano (570883) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426269)

"Physics, It's not just a good idea.

But you can do electrolysis in a properly designed system with braking energy.

Wow (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425413)

First open sourcing solaris and now this.

Way to go Sun!

Benefits not just solar . . . (5, Insightful)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425441)

This would be a big win for any kind of "environmental" energy source (wind, waves, caged toddlers) that isn't always on.

Heck, it would make a great general-purpose home UPS and/or load leveler. If properly integrated, a home equipped with this would be less vulnerable to brownouts and blackouts. Local storage would make the job of power companies easier too.

Fingers crossed.

Re:Benefits not just solar . . . (4, Funny)

Dice (109560) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425677)

>This would be a big win for any kind of "environmental" energy source (wind, waves, caged toddlers) that isn't always on.

Perhaps you've never seen a collection of caged toddlers. I assure you, they are always on.

Re:Benefits not just solar . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425777)

*changes the channel to PBS or Nickelodeon during kids' show times*

... Now what?

Re:Benefits not just solar . . . (3, Informative)

cailith1970 (1325195) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425817)

Not to mention, have you seen the waste products? I wouldn't call 'em "environmentally friendly"!

I have a toddler, trust me on this. ;)

waste products = biomass! (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425945)

Scrape the contents of those Huggies into a biodigester and reap big $$$ in methane sales!

Re:Benefits not just solar . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425891)

Okay, now all we need to do is put those floor bouncy-power generator things underneath those kids playground cages EVERYWHERE, energy crisis solved.

Re:Benefits not just solar . . . (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425901)

unless your not looking ;)

yet another empty promise from the green factions (-1, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425453)

If what these people said was true i'd be up to my neck in melted polar caps, driving my solar PV powered car and sleeping in my bio dome to escape the mutated nuclear vampire bats at night.

Well if everything was true yes. (1)

Adoxographer (1120207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425881)

Well if everything was true yes.

Trouble is it's hard to tell in advance. We can be sure some (more) of it will happen though.

I'll have you know every member of my family except me were sucked dry by mutated nuclear vampire bats at night. (Insensitive clod.)

Still waiting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425501)

I hear about this stuff all the time, and not just from /.

When's it going to happen...

Stupid greens, they will believe anything (-1, Flamebait)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425511)

If anybody actually believed this were true you can bet yer ass the headline wouldn't be some gaywad solar power crap. This reads like 'gimme more funding' not 'major breakthrough, woo hoo I'm going to be rich!'

Near 100% efficiency converting electricity and H2O into H and O2 would be major. Fuel cells are already pretty efficent. So combined you would have the damned holy grail of energy storage. Billions and billions in wealth waiting to be reaped from people happy to hand over the money because real problems would be solved.

Re:Stupid greens, they will believe anything (1)

Adoxographer (1120207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425675)

I'm guessing they have a something in principle but there's a catch that will take 20 years to beat.

If this is true... (4, Interesting)

quantum bit (225091) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425519)

What are the implications for things such as water purification, desalination, etc?

Seems like a fuel cell "battery" is just the tip of the iceberg.

Re:If this is true... (4, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425615)

I was thinking the same thing. I'm imagining a partially-self-powering desalination setup that cycles through seawater (filtered for particulates), extracts the hydrogen and oxygen, combines it in a fuel cell (which power is then cycled back into the system), then stores the resulting water for later drinking or irrigation.

Re:If this is true... (4, Informative)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426067)

My experience is that when you try to use electrolysis on salt water you get NaOH and chlorine.

Re:If this is true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425939)

desalination

That was my first thought. Very large scale, efficient desalination would permit agriculture in certain arid locales. Nothing like a few billion tons of growing crops to sink some carbon.

Wonder how a "home owner" is going to compress H2 and O2 for use in the dark...

Re:If this is true... (1)

lazy_playboy (236084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426167)

> Nothing like a few billion tons of growing crops to sink some carbon.

Which then rots the following year and releases it again?

no more caustic substances needed! (4, Funny)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425551)

Now we only have to solve the problem of storing a very flammable gas and possibly an incredibly powerful oxidizer!

Re:no more caustic substances needed! (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425925)

dont we already know how?

only problem is that being the smallest atom out there, hydrogen loves sneaking out of any storage tank, given time...

Re:no more caustic substances needed! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426095)

'Given time' isn't much of a problem. You only need to store the energy overnight for this kind of system. Even if you lose a little bit to leaks, it's still a lot better than burning oil. It's not just for home use either - a lot of power plants adjust to consumption quite slowly and so would benefit from a more efficient way of storing surplus power.

Re:no more caustic substances needed! (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426193)

well as i live so far north that the sun is barely visible some 3-5 months pr year, long term storage would be nice to maximize those months when the sun really is up...

but i guess i could add a windmill to the mix to get best of both worlds so to speak.

This Quote made the story, (5, Funny)

Brynath (522699) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425567)

"For the last six months, driving home, I've been looking at leaves, and saying, 'I own you guys now,'" Nocera said.

Scientist and Gamer...

Great. So when do we see it? (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425591)

According to Reuters, the discovery of the a new catalyst for separating hydrogen+oxygen from water requires only 10% of the electricity of current methods

Great. So when do we see it? If it's anything like almost every other "alternative energy" advancement, it will either get snapped up by an oil-company owned holding company, or strangled by licensing fees/requirements/exclusivity deals.

Seriously- let's take a look back. Have there been any major advancements in solar energy technology in the last fifty or so years?

MIT = MIT Technology Licensing Office, and I used to work there. Six figure checks to professors were not uncommon...and it was the only part of the university that turned a profit.

It'd be really refreshing to see scientists develop a bit of altruism. It's the ultimate Open Source, and they'd be guaranteed decades, if not centuries, of good will and fame. That's worth a lot more than a few *possible* royalty checks.

Re:Great. So when do we see it? (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425643)

Have there been any major advancements? I'm don't know, because I have no idea what major means to you, but the costs have come way, way, way, way down, and they continue to get lower.

Hell, solar panels even net energy these days.

Re:Great. So when do we see it? (5, Insightful)

bucky0 (229117) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425875)

>> It'd be really refreshing to see scientists develop a bit of altruism. It's the ultimate Open Source, and they'd be guaranteed decades, if not centuries, of good will and fame. That's worth a lot more than a few *possible* royalty checks.

Altruism neither pays for the scientists' mortgages nor pays for all the equipment they use to develop their theories.

I'm all for smacking down ridiculously-long copyrights, invalidating silly trademarks or getting rid of obvious patents (one-click shopping?), but this is the _exact_ thing that patents is supposed to support. These scientists (and by proxy, their granteurs (sp?)) took a gamble on developing a technology and they were successful. They should be rewarded for that success like any other person in society. Without that potential for gains, there's no reason to even try.

Gimme a break (0, Flamebait)

postermmxvicom (1130737) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425951)

"it will either get snapped up by an oil-company owned holding company, or strangled by licensing fees/requirements/exclusivity deals."

Please. Show me a technology suppressed by the oil companies and I'll show you a scam.

Re:Great. So when do we see it? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425957)

So when do you plan to start doing your job for free?

Since 1958? (4, Informative)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426233)

50 years ago was 1958. Interestingly enough., that was the year the first solar panels went to space. Today, you can sit right there in your chair, do some googling, whip out your credit card and have dandy solar panels shipped right to your house at less than NASA cost plus pricing levels. That's pretty significant. A few years previous to that, some of the first ones were running $1,785 dollars per watt, and those are unadjusted dollars. Today you can look for deals and get them at around 5 bucks a watt. Not too shabby. And nanosolar started shipping this year, albeit all of it to Germany where demand is higher and they will pay a bit more now, because they know conventional will be going up fast later, so they did a whole nation push for it starting some years ago. That and it is cleaner.

here's the wiki ref for the figures, Solar timeline [wikipedia.org]

I bought mine at actually a little under 5 bucks a watt some years ago. silicon demand has been going more for throw away gadgets and so on in the meantime, but several new fabs go online this year and next year so prices will be dropping again.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425645)

If they are talking about Titanium Dioxide, the process has been pretty well known for many years. The problem is a large source of energy in to get a small amount out. Efficiencies in photovoltaics and solar collectors in recent years may make this more attractive.

See link http://archive.sciencewatch.com/jan-feb2005/sw_jan-feb2005_page7.htm

Is this better than a regular battery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425671)

I know it can't be better than a big ole flywheel, which is the most efficient means of storing energy we've come up with.

But it's not cutting-edge space-tech so it's ignored. Kind of sad, really. All our problems would be solvable today, but for all the non-technical obstacles.

Fly wheels are expensive too (2, Informative)

George_Ou (849225) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425783)

They have those systems and they're expensive. You need very strong materials keep that much rotational kinetic energy from tearing itself apart. You also need to magnetically levitate it to keep it from slowing down due to friction and also because it would probably be hard on ball bearings.

I think the article probably misunderstood (2, Insightful)

George_Ou (849225) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425685)

"Nocera's catalyst is made from cobalt, phosphate and an electrode that produces oxygen from water by using 90 percent less electricity than current methods, which use the costly metal platinum."

Ok wait, I looked it up and we're currently at 70% efficiency on the electrical energy it takes to split water. I believe we lose even more power to compress the gas in to liquid form for storage.

Now let's say we're only at 10% efficiency now on electrolysis. If you decreased the amount of electricity needed by 90%, you're talking about 10 times that efficiency making the electrolysis system 100% efficient which is impossible. If we're currently at 20% efficiency, then we're up to 200% efficiency which is ludicrous.

I read that lower voltage electrolysis is an active research area that increases the efficiency of electrolysis. Now perhaps what this researcher has found is a way to perform electrolysis with 90% less voltage which would improve electrolysis efficiency from 70% to maybe 85% or something in that ballpark range. That would be far more believable. I'm very much inclined to believe that the story should have reported that this new electrolysis process requires 90% less voltage; not 90% less electricity to produce the same amount of hydrogen and oxygen.

Re:I think the article probably misunderstood (1)

Adoxographer (1120207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425759)

If the current efficiency is better than a tenth it doesn't make sense for an order of magnitude improvement does it?

Good point.

Re:I think the article probably misunderstood (2, Interesting)

George_Ou (849225) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425827)

No, we're already at 70% efficiency and the researcher is now claiming close to 100%. That's definitely not a 10-fold increase in efficiency as the first article is implying. If the system is practical to construct, then 99% efficiency is certainly very impressive.

However, you need to bear in mind that compressing and storing hydrogen is very complex and you probably don't want that kind of a fire hazard in your home. Furthermore, the biggest problem is that it's very expensive to buy sufficient panels to generate 1000W of power and it would be more efficient to simply use that power up because you're going to need it and then some if you're trying to run air conditioning. The biggest problem with solar power is that we can't generate enough power and not the fact that we can't store it. We simply don't have any excess to store in the first place.

Re:I think the article probably misunderstood (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426025)

Standard pressanese. "10 fold increase in efficiency" means 1/10th of the waste as compared to the previous method. A 10 fold efficiency increase on a system that is already 70% efficient would mean only 1/10th of the current 30% waste is wasted, meaning 3% waste or 97% efficiency. If the claim is indeed true, it really isn't much of a stretch to claim that 97% efficiency is close to 100%.

Re:I think the article probably misunderstood (1)

George_Ou (849225) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426155)

The problem is that the article is saying that it now takes 90% less electricity to produce a given amount of hydrogen. Clearly this is misleading. The article also claims that the professor invented a way to store hydrogen in the home which is just plain wrong.

Re:I think the article probably misunderstood (1)

oneal13rru (1322741) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425991)

I think you need to run the numbers again. Look at it like a fraction. Take 7/10, or 70%, multiply by 9/10 to find 90% of 70%. Result is 63/100. So that means that we have reduced required energy by 63% of the current usage. This means we are now at 7% of the old energy requirements. If you find 7% of 70%, you get 5% Which is the new requirement, meaning 95% efficiency. Slightly different.

Re:I think the article probably misunderstood (1)

George_Ou (849225) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426183)

Read the quotation from the article. It's clearly stating that it now takes "90% less electricity to produce hydrogen". Now if the article had stated that the system reduces waste by 90%, then I can buy that.

Re:I think the article probably misunderstood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426041)

I read it as "with 90% less wasted electricity" - if currently 10% of electricity is stored, and 90% is wasted, the result would be only 9% wasted and a 91% efficient process, or if we take 70% baseline, 30% waste -> 3% waste -> 97% efficient.

List of papers, but no online copies? (1)

Toffins (1069136) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425737)

Well it seems like Prof Nocera [mit.edu] has chosen to keep his paper off the internet, or at least his research group's publications list. [mit.edu] His invention has already been patented, so that's not the reason. Why is that while academics in physics, maths, and engineering are busily posting copies of their papers or preprints on their websites or arxiv [arxiv.org] , chemistry academics almost never put up online copies of their papers? It seems like a poor way to go about communicating cutting edge science to me.

Re:List of papers, but no online copies? (1)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425989)

Chemistry is where the real money is.

Re:List of papers, but no online copies? (2, Informative)

FeatureBug (158235) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426135)

You [wikipedia.org] must [wikipedia.org] be [wikipedia.org] kidding [wikipedia.org] ;)

I can't believe it! (3, Funny)

evwah (954864) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425761)

I can't believe that this hasn't been tagged "vaporware" yet

ENVIRONMENTAL RECKLESSNESS (5, Funny)

Repton (60818) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425865)

It is established FACT that Hydrogen is very difficult to contain. It leaks through the tightest seals like they were swiss cheese, and once free it races into the atmosphere and escapes into space.

This is not a major problem when all our hydrogen comes from the deep deposit hydrogen mines in Australia and Canada, but what if this new discovery hearalds an age of wholesail water mining? Do these so-called scientists not realise that we cannot have water without hydrogen? Have they forgotten that humans are 80% water? That water makes our crops grow and our fish swim?? Our life's blood could be literally floating away!

This irresponsible god-gaming may save us from peak oil today, but our grandchildren tomorrow will be facing PEAK WATER if these experiments are allowed to continue!

Write to your political representative today!

Re:ENVIRONMENTAL RECKLESSNESS (0)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425965)

"It is established FACT that Hydrogen is very difficult to contain. It leaks through the tightest seals like they were swiss cheese, and once free it races into the atmosphere and escapes into space."

you fail.

Re:ENVIRONMENTAL RECKLESSNESS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426035)

whoosh

Re:ENVIRONMENTAL RECKLESSNESS (1)

Adoxographer (1120207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426011)

Does it? Bugger.

Wait a minute. Hydrogen mines? Shitting me.

Re:ENVIRONMENTAL RECKLESSNESS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426027)

Too bad the earth isn't covered in water or anything.

Sun?!?!? (2, Funny)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425871)

Using Sun's Energy to Split Water Means Solar Power All Night

Well perhaps using Sun's energy is easy for you, but for those of us who don't live close to Sun's headquarters, it is impractical to buy a 100 mile long extension cord.

Re:Sun?!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24425953)

What corner of the world are you in? Here we use huge mirrors to reflect the Sun's rays on our direction.

Re:Sun?!?!? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425987)

Let me be the first to say: Woosh

Re:Sun?!?!? (1)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426061)

Sounds to me like he's 100 miles from San Jose, where Sun Computer has its HQ.

Get it now?

self-repairing catalyst (3, Informative)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 6 years ago | (#24425971)

If you read the actual article (you need to be a AAAS member or otherwise have access to Science), you would see that that these MIT guys are using a cobalt oxide catalyst which is created during the electrolysis of water. Yeah, it's really efficient, which is good (I don't know that I buy the green thing), but it's also self-repairing. Although it seems to be future work, they're envisioning tailoring the chemistry so that the activity of the catalyst is maintained by an equilibrium of dissolving and redeposition of the catalyst electrode. As a bonus, it looks really easy to make.

Potential energy (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426093)

This seems very interesting and I hope it goes well for them. But I can't help but feel there are simpler solutions.

Any excess electricity inserted into the grid during the day could be used to run electric motors that turn pumps and push water up a hill (or tower) which we need anyway. During the night if power is needed simply run it back down the hill through the pumps which turn the electric motors and generate electricity for the grid. And water my lawn!

I realize there is quite a bit of efficiency loss in there, but it's stupid simple and it would work, as a supplemental power system.

Re:Potential energy (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426221)

You're right: using surplus power to pump water to a high elevation reservoir and running it back down through the pump as a turbine to generate power when needed would work; we've been doing it for decades. Now all we need are 10,000 of those...

Re:Potential energy (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426255)

Forgot to mention that a related concept that has been experimented with involves locating vast underground cavern networks and using surplus power to pressurize them with air and then release that air back through wind turbine generators when needed. Again there's a problem with scale; there isn't a single solution to our power needs (unless you listen to the insistent voices claiming that nuclear power solves everything).

good point (1)

oneal13rru (1322741) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426211)

Meh, you're totally right. Wording screwed up there. My math was good though ;)

Why oxygen? (0)

harryjohnston (1118069) | more than 6 years ago | (#24426257)

I'm not sure I understand the problem they've solved. They say you can already get the hydrogen out of water efficiently with platinum; OK, there's plenty of oxygen in the atmosphere, so why can't we burn the hydrogen with that?

I'm guessing that the oxygen remains dissolved in the water, and that when the concentration gets too high the hydrogen can no longer be removed efficiently. Can anyone confirm this guess, or provide the real reason?

I gotta question "likely environmentally friendly" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426273)

Are we assuming this because "solar" is somehow spiritually more pure than some other form of electricity?

Are we sure this is more friendly, or is it another clusterfuck like ethanol?

Oh, fuel from renewable corn sounds so much more guilt-free than fuel from oil on paper, but the reality is that it's a giant crock of bullshit.

Madlibs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24426293)

Using (pronoun) (noun) to Split (plural noun) Means (adj) (noun) All Night
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>