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Mimicking Photosynthesis To Split Water

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the just-add-volts-and-put-it-in-the-sun dept.

Power 257

plantsdoitsocanwe writes "An international team of researchers led by Monash University has used chemicals found in plants to replicate a key process in photosynthesis, paving the way to a new approach that uses sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The breakthrough could revolutionize the renewable energy industry by making hydrogen — touted as the clean, green fuel of the future — cheaper and easier to produce on a commercial scale." This was a laboratory demonstration only and the researchers say they need to bring up the efficiency.

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anime is for filty nerd-fags (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24639979)

FUCK ANIME!

I'll believe it when I see it (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24639999)

This was a laboratory demonstration only and the researchers say they need to bring up the efficiency.

Get back to us in 30 years when you finally have something that works in the real world

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (5, Insightful)

Dannybolabo (980836) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640083)

Let's give them some credit at least. They've managed a break through in science and just because it's not perfected yet, you feel the need to disregard it completely? They obviously know it needs more work, they admitted so in TFA.

Give 'em a break man.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (4, Insightful)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640109)

Papers always suggest more work. I've not once in my life seen a paper that said "Nope, that's it, we're done here" :)

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (4, Insightful)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640339)

When a scientist tells you he has all the answers in his field, he's a liar.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (4, Insightful)

buckadude (926560) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640451)

either that or they are trying to sell you something ~

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640649)

Well, that's what we need right now, isn't it? Isn't that what all the complaining is about? We need a technology that is marketable, and we're more than a little tired of "huge breakthroughs" that come with "it's still in the pipe" at the end. They're starting to smell alot more like false hope now.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

rrkap (634128) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641005)

Is there really a difference?

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640581)

Or his field is really narrow.

No they don't (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640543)

If they have something that is viable then they will say so. But then again, they'd probably be doing the rounds trying to sell the technology rather than sitting around writing up the paper for a journal.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

Gruff1002 (717818) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640677)

Me thinks its first post bragging rights. Sound familiar?

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

dan14807 (162088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640937)

Papers always suggest more work. I've not once in my life seen a paper that said "Nope, that's it, we're done here" :)

Maybe when we get a Grand Unified Theory... :-)

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640955)

Can you give us an example of something you believe is finished, done, unimprovable?

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641097)

That's because those are filed under 'business plans'.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

Banquo (225167) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641227)

Thermal Depolymerization...

They said "See we did it here"
(of course they did say) Now we can make it BETTER!
but that's just any product/process lifecycle.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (5, Funny)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640539)

I think this is awesome news personally.

Next stop: Cold fusion! :)

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (4, Insightful)

ockegheim (808089) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640659)

This doesn't deserve to be in the same basket as cold fusion. 250 000 species of plants can't be wrong!

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (4, Interesting)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640963)

How many plants move around? How many animals use photosynthesis to get the energy to move around? What is the ratio of plannts / animals in the world?

If evolution is a teacher it is telling us that sunlight is so diffuse that you need vast areas of collectors to power even a small number of things that move about. Unfortunately, we want to move a lot of stuff using minimal impact on our surroundings, so we want something less diffuse in nature.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641327)

Here's a cut and paste from wikipedia : "The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the planet is so vast that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from the all of earth's non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined."

I agree that we need "vast areas of collectors" to get a fraction of this energy, but if you use something like google earth (or simply look at an atlas), you will realize that a lot of places on earth are deserts. So place "collectors" in desert, bring see water with pipelines, and tada!

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (1)

spyder-implee (864295) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640449)

So how are those Saudi Aramco stocks of yours going?

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (3, Insightful)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640567)

30 years?

I think that is a bit long. If you think tech takes 30 years from initial lab stages to general practice I think you've missed some history classes. Try reading up on the Manhattan Project and Computers sometime.

While it is true that development can take decades it often goes much quicker.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (-1, Troll)

kcelery (410487) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640691)

30 years? No, true green energy system has arrived. Convert you car into a compressed air vehicle. Buy an ox or two. Set up rotary air compressor so it could be driven by the ox. Buy some grass. Or may be an iPod too, which might promote the efficiency.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641495)

While it is true that development can take decades it often goes much quicker.

Only when it is motivated by, say, a World War.

Logic, in my Slashdot article? (5, Funny)

pchan- (118053) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640021)

This was a laboratory demonstration only and the researchers say they need to bring up the efficiency.

Shame on you, submitter. This is Slashdot, you're supposed to write a sensational story and let the comments tell us why it actually won't work. If you're going to write things that make sense and treat us like adults, you're missing the entire point.

WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA!!!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640127)

GO AWAY TROLL!!!

Re:Logic, in my Slashdot article? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640467)

*Ahem*

HOLY COW BALLS!! They're are these guys in Monash University (a known Microsoft hotspot) who are experimenting with ways to take apart water. Now, they claim to be doing this for energy research, but that is an obvious lye because once the water was turned into oxygen and helium, the the two molecules would simply reassemble, with no gain in energy. Therefore, this is obviously just another attempt at government control. For example, say you bitch about copywrite...BOOM, there goes you're water. Your royally fucked now. Time to move to Canada.

Re:Logic, in my Slashdot article? (2, Funny)

Runefox (905204) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640609)

Well, there went the logic.

Re:Logic, in my Slashdot article? (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641029)

Shame on you, submitter. This is Slashdot, you're supposed to write a sensational story and let the comments tell us why it actually won't work.

The reasonable part was not attributed to the submitter. Presumably that was added by the editor.

Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy technique (5, Insightful)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640037)

We are in a phase similar to the Cambrian Explosion, when all sorts of lifeforms with weird body plans gave it a shot . . . but which were winnowed down to a few by the time things started to crawl on land. Chances are just a few of the many alternative energy techniques being fooled about with will pan out commercially . . . but this is a necessary process.

Now, cue the cranky "Gee, Slashdot posts stories about dramatic advances in solar energy all the time; why doesn't my car run on solar cells yet?" posts.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (5, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640121)

It is easy to get a breakthrough in one criteria if you shaft the other ones.

As an example, you could very well produce hydrogen very efficiently from sunlight without any fancy tech by simply focusing enough sunlight to raise the temperature to 2500 C, at which point water spontaneously separates into hydrogen and oxygen through thermolysis. This would be possible completely without moving parts, no toxic materials, and no new technology.

Problem? It would be much more expensive than making hydrogen from natural gas.

This is why these vapourware stories are so useless. There will be a vast number of ways to convert solar energy into hydrogen or electricity, I could start listing various ways to do it in all kinds of elabourate manners, but it does not mean any of them are good, nor does it mean any one of them is likely to be more efficient than simply using a conventional steam turbine and solar concentrators.

Seriously, what you are attempting to beat is something which, depending on temperature achieved, can have up to 40% conversion efficiency, economies of scale, and uses well tested technology. When you can beat solar thermal then you can start trying to have a go at nuclear or coal, which have a number of other advantages. Simply finding yet another way to convert solar energy into useful work is quite a different thing from solving our energy problems.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (5, Insightful)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640365)

This sounds like a bit of a red herring to me.

Are you saying that we should abandon any new idea or technology if, in its infancy, it isn't better than what we already have? I think that would put an end to a great deal of innovation that we could benefit from in the future.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640643)

How about we let them work out the bugs before posting to slashdot?

Seems a lot of the stories get posted to get into "the media" without having the required science/adverse analysis/hostile counterpoint process done.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (4, Insightful)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640703)

How about we let them work out the bugs before posting to slashdot?

Two reasons:

1) The possibility is interesting even if the probability is currently uncertain. ("Of what use is a baby?")

2) Even if it was obvious that the process couldn't be scaled up in any economically feasible manner, it's still interesting to some people on a basic science level.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (5, Funny)

mrami (664567) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641237)

("Of what use is a baby?")

That clearly depends on its tensile strength.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (2, Informative)

TheSambassador (1134253) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640839)

Science can't get public support if the public doesn't know about it. Even in intimate stages like this it's better for us to know that something is being worked on, and something like this certainly has the potential to be "groundbreaking."

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641117)

Seems a lot of the stories get posted to get into "the media" without having the required science/adverse analysis/hostile counterpoint process done.

      I like to read the hostile counterpoints here. :)

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (3, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641639)

"How about we let them work out the bugs before posting to slashdot?"

What bugs? Did they NOT mimic photosynthisis? - Did you find a methodology error in their paper? Do you know of published contra-evidence?

"Seems a lot of the stories get posted to get into "the media" without having the required science/adverse analysis/hostile counterpoint process done."

The science has been published in a respected peer-reviewed journal and comes from two leading scientific institutions down here in Oz. Did you have some other 'process' in mind?

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (4, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640867)

No, I'm merely saying that the fact that you can invent many different ways of doing soemthing is in no way an indication that fundamental problems with it will suddenly vanish. It is not rational to expect solar to suddenly become a silver bullet merely because there is a lot of proposed ways to make solar cells.

Perhaps an analogy is in order. There are LOADS of ways to convert nuclear energy into electricity. There's turbines, direct electrostatic conversion, magnetohydrodynamics, thermoelectric solid state devices, sterling engines, brayton cycles, thermochemical hydrogen production, high temperature electrolysis, etc etc...

Now despite of this you don't see people randomly assuming the price of nuclear is going to drop by a factor of ten within "a few years", because people know that with nuclear, as with solar, and as with coal, the most efficient ( in watts/dollar terms ) generation scheme is to heat one side of a turbine and cool the other one. The other techniques, while interesting from a scientific perspective, are simply inferior in one way or another. They may be inefficient, fragile, may not scale, may involve expensive materials / maintainence etc...

What gets on my nerves with the way these solar technologies are described as major breakthroughs is that they ALWAYS, without exception, are described as something which will revolutionise the energy situation, without as much as a shed of proof that they will even be economical, durable, efficient... They are always along the lines of "Here is yet another way to use solar energy, IF it turns out to be cheap ( which we have no evidence suggesting it will be ) THEN it will change the world.".

That's not a breakthrough, it's speculation of greener grass with no evidence to back it up.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (2, Funny)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640447)

As an example, you could very well produce hydrogen very efficiently from sunlight without any fancy tech by simply focusing enough sunlight to raise the temperature to 2500 C, at which point water spontaneously separates into hydrogen and oxygen through thermolysis.

This is why these vapourware stories are so useless.

According to your first point, these stories would be called gasware stories instead of vaporware stories.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641335)

> If no one RTFA, why do servers melt when websites are posted to Slashdot?

Oh come on, this is easy!

R is the set of Slashdot readers who RTFA
C is the set of Slashdot readers who comment

R [disjoint] C

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (2, Insightful)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640469)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the idea to be able to store solar energy this way? Even with solar-driven steam turbines, you can't generate any power at night and afaik, there's no effective way of storing energy. Making hydrogen to run fuel cells at night or when extra power is needed wouldn't really compete with any power source, only supplement them.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (2, Interesting)

DirtySouthAfrican (984664) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640697)

I think focusing sunlight to thermolyse water in that way might violate thermodynamics. I think you'd need to get closer to the sun. Maybe someone can give us hard numbers...

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (3, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640903)

I think focusing sunlight to thermolyse water in that way might violate thermodynamics. I think you'd need to get closer to the sun. Maybe someone can give us hard numbers...

The sun's surface temperature is more than 5000 C , so the laws of thermodynamics certainly don't prevent you from reaching 2500 C using the light emitted from it.

Nope... (1)

DirtySouthAfrican (984664) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641181)

Unless you were touching the Sun. I believe the point of maximum efficiency is reached once the thing that you are heating radiates as much heat as is incident upon it (per unit area). Because of the distance between us and the Sun, the intensity of light reaching is is lower. Say you build a setup of lenses and mirrors on Earth, and that this setup focuses the sun's rays onto some object, and that this beam has intensity X, heating the object to the Sun's temperature. X is therefore also the intensity that the object is radiating, and for sake of argument, say it is given by s T^4 (Stefan-Boltzmann). Moving this set-up closer to the sun increases the incident intensity by a factor of (R_f/R_i)^2. Since the set-up of lenses hasn't changed, the object must now radiate more to stay in thermal equilibrium, and so it's temperature must increase. By assumption, it's temperature was as high as thermodynamically possible, and we arrive at a contradiction.

Re:Nope... (2, Interesting)

sponglish (759074) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641331)

Correct except you've forgotten about the Corona Problem. The Sun's corona is more than a million degrees and nobody knows why yet. Probably some magnetic field effect, but if we can harness the effect and keep it going much further out from Sol, we can heat all the water you need.

It would work just like Doc Smith's Sunbeam, except you wouldn't be shooting at inertialess planets (much).

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640967)

The difference is that the technique you're describing, while it would work, would be very difficult to improve the efficiency of. The technique described in the article has a pre-existing example of a high efficiency implementation.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640137)

This of course assumes that evolution is true in the first place.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640167)

It is. Only the degree to which the various mechanisms influenced the path are debatable.

Re: Cambrian Explosion - but, Sweet Saudi crude... (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640247)

Yessss, Oil is black and sweet. (Aaaahh the Sun! We hates it, my precious! We hates it!)

On a slightly less silly note, I like this development. And wierd body plans suit the laboratory environment quite well.

I imagine we could move away from the great black poison in the dirt eventually, if our good wierdly-planned bodies in the laboratory keep up the good work.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (5, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640305)

Actually, your answer to why your car doesn't run on solar yet is rather simple. Because we haven't needed solar power to win a war yet. Nuclear got everything it needed to get off the ground, working, demonstrated, and dropped. It was needed to fight a war. Radio, space ships, etc? Same things. The US Military is just starting to come to the conclusion that half their vehicles exist solely to deliver fuel and supplies to the other half(the fighting half) and that there is a huge risk in running tankers full of Diesel and gas to forward areas, as they become very easy targets. Destroy the supply lines, and those 70Ton M1A tanks become very large, immobile targets. Add to that, the skyrocketing cost of fuel the military has to buy. (not to mention, the huge costs of keeping 50% of your peopled tied up in support roles).

THat is why the military is starting to look at things like solar, small nuclear plants, etc. They are looking at hybrid vehicles that work like a train, the whole powertrain is electric, powered by a generator. Some of these vehicles are pretty cool, they could sit there and idle at the forward CP, and you just plug all your radios and equipment into the truck. No need to lug a generator with you.

I have a feeling things are going to improve quite quickly over the next few years. Nothing improves technology like fat government contracts!

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (4, Informative)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640433)

Gas as in gasoline is rarer the hen's teeth in the US Army, the only place I remember it being used is in the mess for running stoves, ovens, and water heaters; and I retired back in 1985. I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't new stoves that ran on JP4, military jet fuel and or water-clear kerosene by now. Gasoline is just nasty dangerously flamable stuff especially around bombs and bullets.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (1)

oneal13rru (1322741) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640845)

JP8. Almost singly.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (4, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640951)

I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't new stoves that ran on JP4, military jet fuel and or water-clear kerosene by now

In the late 1980s a mountaineering stove came out that could run on those fuels - the whisperlight international. Admittedly one of the first of them was hurled into a crevasse on Mt Erebus in Antarctica by a critic. However the later ones were better and there have been lot of other multi-fuel stoves since then.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (3, Informative)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641467)

We still use JP for our mil vehicles, but we use a lot of NTVs (non tactical vehicles) now which are from I have seen over the last few years a fairly even mixture of gas and diesel.

The stoves, heaters, and yes, we have a/c now in even the training tents, all run off electricity which comes from generators that are fueled by something brought in by contracted companies. Diesel? Gas? I don't know because I haven't seen the paperwork for the contracts. It all depends on who we contract out for the generators and what kind of generators they bring in for us.

I think that was the biggest change in Army ideology over the last 20 years or so... they've shifted a huge portion of the green suiters' work onto civvie companies and contractors.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640533)

More importantly, why doesn't my solar cell have wheels on it yet?

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641397)

More importantly, why doesn't my solar cell have wheels on it yet?

It already does:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/steven_wong/2070720968/ [flickr.com]

...what do you mean you want a bigger one??

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640623)

We are in a phase similar to the Cambrian Explosion, when all sorts of lifeforms with weird body plans gave it a shot . . . but which were winnowed down to a few by the time things started to crawl on land.

It sure would be nice to have any evidence of what you suggest. There isn't any hint of "all sorts of lifeforms" in the fossil record. Majority, if not all, the animals seem to be some variation on leathery-skinned lizards.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640935)

You know what a joke during the early times of the Newcomen steam engine was? You need three mines to run a steam engine. One mine where you apply it, one coal mine to fire it and one silver mine to pay for it.

Know what? It changed.

If people would've taken the position you have now and ignore Newcomen's development, the industrial revolution would not have happened, at least not in the way we know it. Yes, the steam engine was horribly inefficient and in most cases uneconomical until Watt made his improvements. After that, though... well, you know history I'm sure.

What we have here is not even yet the equivalent of a Newcomen machine. This has a long, long way to go, give it a decade and good funding and this can go a long way.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (1)

aevans (933829) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641323)

Except the only difference is now you have millions of high school kids that understand steam engines, combustion, solar and wind power, nuclear reactions, electricity, thermodynamics, mechanics, and even photosynthesis. The laws of physics aren't a little understood mystery yet to be harnessed, they're common knowledge applied everyday to engineering problems.

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (2, Interesting)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641187)

That is very much how the motor car industry started out - you had well over 3000 startup companies all across North America and Europe, experimenting with the combustion engine, and inventing different improvements (carburettor, cooling fan, 2-stroke, 4-stroke and 8-stroke engines). Eventually, over time they merged together to form larger companies and eventually forming a handful of corporations.

How many solar panels would they need on a car to have a completedly closed system (solar panels to generate electricity to split water into hydrogen, a compressor to force the hydrogen and oxygen into the engine, and a collector to recycle the used water from the exhaust)?

Re:Cambrian Explosion of alternative energy techni (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641277)

How many solar panels would they need on a car to have a completedly closed system (solar panels to generate electricity to split water into hydrogen, a compressor to force the hydrogen and oxygen into the engine, and a collector to recycle the used water from the exhaust)?

This assumes an internal combustion engine. What one would actually use is a sloar panel, an electric motor/generator and a fuel cell. This arrangement would permit regenerative braking as a bonus, and it may also be possible to harvest and re-use energy from the shock absorbers as well.

However, for a conventional petrol or diesel engine, there is no attempt made to collect the fuel right there on the car. They collect the fuel separately at oil fields. To make a fair comparison then, one should eliminate the solar panels from the above system, and replace it with stored fuel (in this case, hydrogen).

So one would end up with a fuel tank (of hydrogen), a fuel cell, an electric motor/generator (which doubles as engine and brake) and possibly active suspension as well, (which would double as shock absorber and energy reclamation).

The hydrogen economy system is still closed as a whole, even if the fuel generation part is physically separated from the fuel consumption part.

This new artificial photosynthesis method is a potential solution to the fuel generation part. It is not fitted on the car.

first post!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640055)

first post!!!

Big Yawn (1, Interesting)

flipper9 (109877) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640079)

yawn...

We hear about so many "breakthroughs" that turn into vapors that you really can't believe any of them anymore. Try sticking to solutions that we can implement today, especially conservation initiatives that are guaranteed to produce cheap, green fuel by simply not using them.

Not new (5, Informative)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640081)

This was a laboratory demonstration only and the researchers say they need to bring up the efficiency.

There have been numerous such laboratory demonstrations on different ways to produce hydrogen easily. But the attempts to bring up efficiency are just what failed.

Re:Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640113)

Yep, they shouldn't even try anymore.

Re:Not new (2, Informative)

wrp103 (583277) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640133)

Is this a dup of this story [slashdot.org] from July 31?

Re:Not new (5, Informative)

quantumred (1311571) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640431)

I don't think so, although I initially thought the same thing.

The MIT process (from July 31 /.):
"..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."

The Monash team (todays /.):
"..using just sunlight, an electrical potential of 1.2 volts and the very chemical that nature has selected for this purpose". The chemical seems to be "a form of manganese".

Efficiency... (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641345)

What I'm wondering is, is it any more efficient than using the 1.2 volt potential to just electrolyze the water?

If it is... (1)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641425)

...then it can be thought as crossed alpha stage and entered beta stage.

need to bring down cost too I bet. (2, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640125)

Why not just put in a solar panel? 3x the efficiency of the best plants and none of those messy chemicals, plus much better applicability.

Re:need to bring down cost too I bet. (2, Informative)

sokoban (142301) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640193)

Because normal electrolysis of water isn't very efficient at producing hydrogen.

This is a system for generating Hydrogen which can then be stored and used as a fuel either in an internal combustion way or with a fuel cell.

Solar panels are a way to generate electricity which then must be stored and used. Storage of electricity is generally a pretty big inefficiency, and solar panels only really work when the sun is out, so they necessitate storage or supplemental energy generation systems.

Re:need to bring down cost too I bet. (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640321)

The normal electrolysis of water efficiencies usually reported includes the losses that go into generation of electricity. If you don't have that step (like with a solar cell that is generating electricity) the efficiency is pretty good (50-80%).

Re:need to bring down cost too I bet. (2, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640995)

I've got sunlight and I want hydrogen. Whoops, the inefficiency in the solar cell is still part of the process.

Trade efficiency for storage (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640221)

In order to match the best application, with the best method, you often times have to make a trade off. For example, a satellite gets some power from solar cells because it's more efficient than bringing all the fuel it would need with it, or running a really long power cord.

I imagine that this new method might find applications where there is plenty of both sunlight and water. Perhaps large ocean liners, and offshore drilling rigs.

Re:need to bring down cost too I bet. (2, Funny)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640329)

Because you are only truly green if you do it like the plants!

none of those messy chemicals? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640397)

Messy chemicals... in plants? Like the ones you eat?

Re:none of those messy chemicals? (4, Funny)

maglor_83 (856254) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640687)

You don't win friends with salad.

Re:none of those messy chemicals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641461)

I'm not so sure about that. You should try my tuna nicoise sometime.

BATTERIES (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640161)

I want better batteries, none of this hydrogen crap.

Just make better batteries and a good number of our energy problems go away!! Chemists, why aren't you losing sleep over this!!!

BATTERY!!!

Just like listen to Master of Puppets every morning to remind yourself of what we need.

Loose H2 in the Biosphere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640227)

*snap* All the energy that man used to get via fossil fuels is now able to gotten via H2. (I am slumming today ya see)

The effects on the biosphere of such *WILL* be devastating.

Good Luck to ya all.

Water Shortage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640371)

If we split water to make Hydrogen, won't we be constantly reducing the amount of H2O? Won't this have negative consequences? Forgive my ignorance on the matter.

Re:Water Shortage (1)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640471)

Well you have to ask yourself what they are going to do with the hydrogen. They are going to burn it to make water. So basically it is storing the sunlight as chemical energy in the hydrogen. And then turning it back into water to get the energy back out. So there is no need to worry.

Re:Water Shortage (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640489)

i think when hydrogen burns, it gets converted back into water. You probably would want to use non potable water for this as well, rather than cut into potable supplies.

Not as good as advertised. (3, Informative)

the_povinator (936048) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640387)

TFA says that a voltage of 1.2V is required, along with sunlight. The theoretical voltage required to split water is 1.23V. The energy supplied by the electrodes at 1.2V is obviously way more than you could practically retrieve from the H2 (which maxes out at 1.23V but you have to factor in efficiency). So this device is of no practical value even if scaled up. Online I see that as far back as 1981 (ahref=http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v46/i17/p1153_1rel=url2html-26843 [slashdot.org] http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v46/i17/p1153_1>) a method was published that used sunlight and an electrode potential of 0.65V to split water. So I don't understand the fuss about the current paper.

Voltage != energy (3, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640617)

It isn't the voltage that matters, but the electrical energy efficiency (ie electrical energy in vs fuel energy out).

If you had to apply a potential of 1.2V to catalyse the reaction then that is OK so long as the process is chomping very little current and is instead getting the bulk of the energy from the light.

Of course if it is using a lot of electrical energy and just a small amount of light energy then it isn't really much improvement over electrolysis.

plants can split molecules? (4, Funny)

notgm (1069012) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640391)

they must be working up to the atom. this means war! bomb the crap out of those planty bastards.

Electricity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640485)

So if this was used to generate electricity would it literally be a power "plant"?

c08 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640493)

empire in d3cline, paper towe4ls

dont bother looking for the answer...make your own (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640669)

You fence sitters can argue all day...y dont you stuff a sock in it and do some actually engineering yourselves...in the time it took me to read your pathetic whining drivel and nonsensical arguments my younger brother finished his 2nd h-fuel cell and i installed it tandem to his motorbike so he can ride for free all day and without releasing any other emissions ...so stop kissing your own egos,read:(small penises) for a half a nanosecond and build something you before you become politicians...and waste more of your lives philosfuckising around...get a decent workshop and pull your bits out of each others butts or come round and see me personally and I'll set you on fire so you can see how much bulldung is piling up around your keyboards after exiting your miniscule brain capacity...enuff said..I'm off to shoot something with my just finished High powered mobile laser that slags car bodies in half...Awesome!@

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24640729)

They ALWAYS need to bring up the efficiency. Just like every other breakthrough they have in the energy department.

Efficiency compared with MIT work? (1)

arobatino (46791) | more than 6 years ago | (#24640747)

Anyone know how the efficiency compares to the MIT work [slashdot.org] reported a few weeks ago?

Holy Grail - stored energy direct from sunlight (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641161)

There are three crucially important characteristics here:

(1) stored energy,
(2) direct from sunlight, and
(3) zero carbon footprint.

(1) Is important because:
(a) stored energy can be used as a fuel (in this case, it IS a fuel), and
(b) stored energy can be used at times when the primary source is not available (an energy buffer).

(2) is important because:
(a) only one process is involved. There is no "convert to electricity, then electrolyse water" type of two-step process. Improve one efficiency, and the whole process is improved.

(3) is important because:
(a) there is no release of carbon compounds into the environment.
(b) In fact, one could release oxygen and hence replace the role of lost forestation. A double bonus.
(c) unlike producing hydrogen from natural gas, there is no carbon compound as a first source ... only water. That water is replaced back into the environment when the fuel is eventually burned in a fuel cell. No greenhouse gasses, only gasses which occur naturally anyway.

All three are important because ... it makes for a closed cycle. Energy from the sun (which was going into the planet as heat anyway) is temporarily stored and then ultimately re-released, with people benefitting along the way.

All in all, this is a first but crucially important step on the way to a hydrogen economy, and replacing the oil industry.

Because it is "replacing the oil industry" ... expect to hear a tremendous amount of artificially-generated corporate-origin naysaying over this topic.

Photosynthesis is Inefficient (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641207)

Photosynthesis has a maximum theoretical efficiency [fao.org] of about 11% from sunlight into energy stored in biomass (eg. the plant). But in the wild, it's only 3-6% efficient.

Familiar PV cells already get 15-25% efficiency; experimental concentration cells get over 45%. And the PV outputs electric current, not just biomass to burn inefficiently.

Those cells cost a lot more energy to make than plants do, but they last over 30 years, while most plants don't.

I'm not so sure that mimicking photosynthesis is such a great way to go.

Re:Photosynthesis is Inefficient (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24641359)

Familiar PV cells already get 15-25% efficiency; experimental concentration cells get over 45%. And the PV outputs electric current, not just biomass to burn inefficiently.

Those cells cost a lot more energy to make than plants do, but they last over 30 years, while most plants don't.

I'm not so sure that mimicking photosynthesis is such a great way to go.

Sigh!

On a mobile vehicle, if you want to use the energy from sunlight utilising PV cells, then you must (a) have the PV cells on the car, and (b) only use the car when it is sunny.

For practical use, you must have an energy storage mechanism. Batteries currently can store electrical energy directly, but only in miniscule amounts. Not enough to be practical for a car ... the energy density of batteries is too small, and the weight of batteries is too high.

Therefore, on a car, the stored energy has to be chemical ... that is, a car must use fuel.

The only green (zero carbon) way to do that is if the fuel is hydrogen.

If we have hydrogen fuel on the car, then we do not need PV cells.

If we have PV cells in the field making electrical energy (equivalent role to oil rigs), and we make hydrogen fuel from that electrical energy, then there is a double-conversion process that is abysmally inefficient.

Converting solar energy **directly** to hydrogen fuel could perhaps one day become as much as 1% efficient. Since the amount of sunlight that falls on the planet is 15,000 times as much energy as we use in total as a species, then we can easily accomodate a single process which is only 1% efficient to collect that energy.

Carbs (3, Interesting)

soundguy (415780) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641287)

FTFA: This process of "oxidizing" water generates protons and electrons, which can be converted into hydrogen gas instead of carbohydrates as in plants.

Well, hydrogen is nice and all, but I can see an equally compelling reason to work on generating carbohydrates (preferably edible) with this method instead. Especially in places with no plants where having a food source would be awesome - places like long-range manned space flights, as-yet-un-terraformed planets like Mars, and god-forsaken hell-holes like the middle east and the Sahara.

"Soylent green is...well, it's sunlight and carbon dioxide...and 1.2 volts"

So... what is the efficiency? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641337)

They say they need to bring up the efficiency, but I didn't see where they are at. Are they at .1%, 1%... what's up? I think a plant is 10% while a photovoltaic cell commercially available is around 10-20%. Just wonder how far they have to go.

Obligatory Simpsons (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#24641573)

Lisa: Dad, look what I made for the science fair!

Homer: What good is that? It just keeps spinning and spinning.

My version of hydrogen fuel- all spin, no substance. (of course Lisa had invented a perpetual motion maching)

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