CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
website
 in the world. Subscribe today!


Clean Power solar-panels1

Published on October 25th, 2008 | by Andrew Williams

135

MIT Energy Storage Discovery Could Lead to ‘Unlimited’ Solar Power

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

October 25th, 2008 by  

 

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered a new way of storing energy from sunlight that could lead to ‘unlimited’ solar power.

The process, loosely based on plant photosynthesis, uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. When needed, the gases can then be re-combined in a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity whether the sun is shining or not.

According to project leader Prof. Daniel Nocera, “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years. Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now, we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.

Nocera has also explained that the process (video) uses natural materials, is inexpensive to conduct and is easy to set up. “That’s why I know this is going to work. It’s so easy to implement,” he said.

Other prominent scientists in the field have rushed to highlight the revolutionary potential of the new process. According to James Barber, biochemistry professor at Imperial College London, this research is a ‘giant leap’ towards generating clean, carbon-free energy on as massive scale. In a statement, he also said:

“This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind. 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.”

No news has yet been released of a predicted timescale to commericial development or mainstream adoption. However, Nocera has said that he’s hopeful that within 10 years homes will no longer be powered using electricity-by-wire from a central source. Instead, homeowners will be able to harness solar power during daylight hours and use this new energy storage method for electricity at night.

Image Credit – markus941 via flickr.com on a Creative Commons license. See the Visual Photo Guide.

 

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.



  • Joanna Thomson

    Do you want to know why this is impossible? The Surface area of the earth is too small at 510.1 million km² The sun only rains 1367 joules per second of photons per m^2…….. do the math people. You would literally have to cover the entire planet including the ocean with solar panels to do this and it still wouldn’t be enough. 697,306,700,000,000 joules per second if the entire planet was covered versus a world consumption rate of 280,821,917,808,219 joules per second which will only grow.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Joanna – what you are posting is dumb as a stump.

      Try learning some facts.

      And don’t spam this site with garbage. Read the comment rules.

      • Joanna Thomson

        Asshole I calculated the facts.

        • Bob_Wallace

          And you made a massive error.

          You get zero more warnings about violating site rules.

          • Joanna Thomson

            Oh noes are you gonna spank me for math disagreeing with you?

          • Bob_Wallace

            You wish.

            But no, I’m going to give you some accurate data. Your math is highly flawed.

            The US EIA projects global energy maximum in 2030 (electricity, transportation and heating) to be 16.9 TW.

            That’s high because it assumes we will still be using very inefficient internal combustion engines rather than electric motors for most of our transportation.

            The Sun produces 6.400 TW of power.

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030/

          • Bob_Wallace

            And here’s some more math for you – the amount of land it would take to generate 100% of the US’s electricity with nothing but solar panels.

            2013 Total US Demand = 4,045,855 million kWh

            Average Daily Demand = 11,084,534,247 kwh

            Add 20% for Storage and Transmission Loss = 13,301,441,096 kWh

            Total Number 1 kW Panels (64 sq.ft. each) = 2,955,875,799 (Assuming 4.5 avg solar hours per day)

            Total Area for Panels = 189,176,051,142 Sq. Ft.

            Total Area for Panels = 4,342,884.5 Acres

            Total Area for Panels (Square Miles) = 6,786 Sq. Miles

            Add 20% Area between rows of Panels = 8,143 Sq. Miles

            Square Miles in Lower 48 States = 2,959,064

            Percentage of Lower 48 to Gen 100% for all 50 States = 0.3%

          • Joanna Thomson

            LOL that assuming your inside the sun/

          • Bob_Wallace

            Grow up, Joanna.

            Your math is badly flawed. There are many different ways solar has been calculated and your numbers aren’t even in the same universe.

            Go back. Work on your numbers and see if you can locate your error.

          • Joanna Thomson

            Secondly, One Fusion reactor can power this entire planet, IT IS THE SUN DUMBASS

          • Bob_Wallace

            I lied. I’m going to give you one additional chance to follow site rules.

            No shouting. No name-calling.

            I’m glad you recognize the immense energy source we have with the Sun. But you need to work on how much land it would take to harvest that energy.

  • Joanna Thomson

    Do you want to know why this is impossible? The Surface area of the earth is too small at 510.1 million km² The sun only rains 1367 joules per second of photons per m^2…….. do the math people. You would literally have to cover the entire planet including the ocean with solar panels to do this and it still wouldn’t be enough. 697,306,700,000,000 joules per second if the entire planet was covered versus a world consumption rate of 280,821,917,808,219 joules per second which will only grow. MAKE A FUSION REACTOR ALREADY DUMBASSES!

    • Bob_Wallace

      Making an extremely dumb statement once in a thread is adequate. I’ll take this down so that you’re not doubly embarrassed.

  • Joanna Thomson

    Do you want to know why this is impossible? The Surface area of the earth is too small at 510.1 million km² The sun only rains 1367 joules per second of photons per m^2…….. do the math people. You would literally have to cover the entire planet including the ocean with solar panels to do this and it still wouldn’t be enough. 697,306,700,000,000 joules per second if the entire planet was covered versus a world consumption rate of 280,821,917,808,219 joules per second which will only grow. MAKE A FUSION REACTOR ALREADY DUMBASSES!

    • Bob_Wallace

      “You would literally have to cover the entire planet including the ocean with solar panels to do this and it still wouldn’t be enough”

      Congratulations! You win today’s Dumb Bunny Award!!!

      Look at the world map below.

      See those little green rectangles?

      That’s the area needed to power the world with only solar panels.

      (And the black boarders around the green don’t count, just the tiny green part.)

      BTW, nuclear is too expensive to consider.

      BTW2, no all caps shouting. Doubly so when making stupid statements.

      BTW3, no name-calling. Triply so when part of a stupid statement and in all caps.

  • Sargonarhes

    Would it not be more efficient just to make cars powered by fuel cells rather than electricity if this system is as good as they think? Why use a battery that can go dead after sitting out on a cold day in January?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Fuel cell cars would cost 2x or more as much per mile to operate.

      Batteries don’t “go dead” on a cold day. Range decreases some. That can be avoided by leaving the car plugged in and pre-warming the car before driving.

  • Maggie

    Any updates on this???

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Not much in a long while.

  • pat

    So what is new about what they are doing, I built a fuel cell charged by a solar panel ages ago, the problem was hydrogen storage seemed like an engineering problem to build a sealed system more than anything.

  • http://twitter.com/vetxcl T. Lester

    This article reminds me of those in Popular Science magazine that tout great things that never happen. Like the other commenter mentioned, the article linked to is very old.

  • Michael R.

    This is an important advance (though dated), but it is still water-intensive (fine if you live where water is plentiful)..and, it will require storage of (highly explosive) H and O gases in one’s private residence…still a few bugs there, but on a small scale (and/or with water reclamation), this can have many practical uses

  • Cory Mcclellan

    This is referencing an article that is 3 years old… We should be 33% of our way to home energy self sufficiency by now…

  • http://gomakesolarpanels.com/ Make Solar Panels

    Yes! This is awesome. the one major thing holding back renewable energy is a good battery. This is a good step.

    • http://twitter.com/vetxcl T. Lester

      Batteries aren’t holding back anything. The thinking that batteries are a solution is the hold up.

  • http://www.snootypies.com Atlas360

    How is this a new technology? Solar-powered electrolysis is not a new concept…using Hydrogen & Oxygen as an energy carrier for fuel cells is not a new concept…and combining these systems into a sustainable energy loop is not a new concept either. As such, what specific advancements are being discussed here? Is it a new type of Hydrogen storage? Is it a new photovoltaic system?

  • http://www.infowars.com Grant Smith

    This article is disappointing. Almost no details about the process are described. Call me when you are actually ready to discuss the technology.

    • LTD Edition

      it’s two current techs integrated into one. Electrolysis is simple. if you don’t know how it works open a grade school textbook. It’s simply a novel form of two ideas.

  • http://وبسایت Arash

    i live in Iran but I thing this god.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob

    This story is too general. Details please.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Bob

    This story is too general. Details please.

  • Pingback: $4 Million Goes to MIT from French Oil Company for Solar Energy Battery Project : CleanTechnica

  • Tom Blackwood

    I wouldn’t be surprised if MIT hasn’t heard of the PURE project but using fuel cells to divide oxygen and hydrogen from water isn’t really new…

    Except, instead of using Solar panels, Wind turbines were used.

  • Tom Blackwood

    I wouldn’t be surprised if MIT hasn’t heard of the PURE project but using fuel cells to divide oxygen and hydrogen from water isn’t really new…

    Except, instead of using Solar panels, Wind turbines were used.

  • http://solceller.blogspot.com MatsRG

    what is the status of the discovery today?

    MatsRG

    Myiphone

  • http://solceller.blogspot.com MatsRG

    what is the status of the discovery today?

    MatsRG

    Myiphone

  • John

    Fantastic, as soon as we have solar panels stretched across the unlimited expanse of the Earth’s surface, we can begin harvesting those unlimited sunlight hours and hey presto! Unlimited power! Or not.

  • John

    Fantastic, as soon as we have solar panels stretched across the unlimited expanse of the Earth’s surface, we can begin harvesting those unlimited sunlight hours and hey presto! Unlimited power! Or not.

  • Steven Jones

    There are 2 basic reasons why we should be seeking our own solar power source-money and self reliance. No one wants to or should be dependent upon some fanatical country(ies) or dictator(s) who controls the worlds oil supply. We as individuals can do the same. The technology exists to enable us to be independent and save money on energy costs. Keep it up to help the whole world realize this future!

    • http://www.infowars.com Grant Smith

      The largest exporter of oil to the USA is Canada. Check your ‘facts’.

  • Steven Jones

    There are 2 basic reasons why we should be seeking our own solar power source-money and self reliance. No one wants to or should be dependent upon some fanatical country(ies) or dictator(s) who controls the worlds oil supply. We as individuals can do the same. The technology exists to enable us to be independent and save money on energy costs. Keep it up to help the whole world realize this future!

  • Steve

    To Pete. Please read “The Bottomless Well” then you will see why your statement is silly. Should we stop using lasers to fix peoples eyes? Should we go back to a carbohydrate society? If farmers had to use animals for harvest they would use about 25% of the food to feed them. That would lead to massive deforestation. Using more energy is the only solution to global warming.

  • Steve

    To Pete. Please read “The Bottomless Well” then you will see why your statement is silly. Should we stop using lasers to fix peoples eyes? Should we go back to a carbohydrate society? If farmers had to use animals for harvest they would use about 25% of the food to feed them. That would lead to massive deforestation. Using more energy is the only solution to global warming.

  • http://www.altdotenergy.com/green-jobs/ green jobs and renewable energy

    i think most people are missing the basic point here.

    The main benefit of this breakthrough is that the process of electrolysis is MUCH more efficient and so it means that if you are getting the energy to do the electrolysis at minimal cost (from renewable energy such as solar, or wind) then the resulting energy carriers of hydrogen, or oxygen become really valuable.

  • http://www.altdotenergy.com/green-jobs/ green jobs and renewable energ

    i think most people are missing the basic point here.

    The main benefit of this breakthrough is that the process of electrolysis is MUCH more efficient and so it means that if you are getting the energy to do the electrolysis at minimal cost (from renewable energy such as solar, or wind) then the resulting energy carriers of hydrogen, or oxygen become really valuable.

  • Pete

    This is good, but seems a hi-tech solution to a pretty low-tech problem. Storing grid-connected solar (or any grid-connected energy) with reasonable efficiency is simple. Reverse hydro (pumping water uphill during the day to store grid energy as gravitational potential energy) is 80% efficient, and can use enough existing sites to cover solar energy generation, even at enormous growth rates, for years to come.

    Another really simple solution is to USE MUCH LESS ENERGY, a dramatic way of reducing greenhouse gases that the West seems unable to contemplate seriously.

  • Pete

    This is good, but seems a hi-tech solution to a pretty low-tech problem. Storing grid-connected solar (or any grid-connected energy) with reasonable efficiency is simple. Reverse hydro (pumping water uphill during the day to store grid energy as gravitational potential energy) is 80% efficient, and can use enough existing sites to cover solar energy generation, even at enormous growth rates, for years to come.

    Another really simple solution is to USE MUCH LESS ENERGY, a dramatic way of reducing greenhouse gases that the West seems unable to contemplate seriously.

    • Phil

      You’re clearly not an engineer. Formation of water from hydrogen stores approximately 13.4 kilojoules/gram of water formed. By comparison, reverse hydro storing to a height of 30m (for instance, filling a water tower) stores only .29 kilojoles/gram water.

      80% efficient or not, you can store 45 times more energy via electrolysis that reverse hydro storage in a water tower.

      I suppose you could store water on top of a 4,429 ft mountain, then it would be the same. However, I imagine your efficiency would drop below 80%.

    • Phil

      You’re clearly not an engineer. Formation of water from hydrogen stores approximately 13.4 kilojoules/gram of water formed. By comparison, reverse hydro storing to a height of 30m (for instance, filling a water tower) stores only .29 kilojoles/gram water.

      80% efficient or not, you can store 45 times more energy via electrolysis that reverse hydro storage in a water tower.

      I suppose you could store water on top of a 4,429 ft mountain, then it would be the same. However, I imagine your efficiency would drop below 80%.

  • http://thealternativeenergyinvestor.blogspot.com Ray

    The principal is nothing new. I think it is the cost viability that is considered a break through.

  • http://thealternativeenergyinvestor.blogspot.com Ray

    The principal is nothing new. I think it is the cost viability that is considered a break through.

  • peg

    World’s Largest Solar Panel Manufacturing Plant to be Built in Dubai.

    I can’t be the only person who thinks this is just too funny. I know,I know. Dubai is a very small, very rich, very welcoming very new country. Very friendly to us . This Year! And the largest windmill companies are in Europe. What do we make,besides a fuss?

  • peg

    World’s Largest Solar Panel Manufacturing Plant to be Built in Dubai.

    I can’t be the only person who thinks this is just too funny. I know,I know. Dubai is a very small, very rich, very welcoming very new country. Very friendly to us . This Year! And the largest windmill companies are in Europe. What do we make,besides a fuss?

  • T

    Old news in the alternative energy world, but people who are crazy paranoid about explosives in their basement (especially after Bond just came out) shouldn’t be worried unless they decide to go at it with four men with sledgehammers and then shoot it.

  • T

    Old news in the alternative energy world, but people who are crazy paranoid about explosives in their basement (especially after Bond just came out) shouldn’t be worried unless they decide to go at it with four men with sledgehammers and then shoot it.

  • Alan Watson

    Very secretive, maybe good reason, but who knows, they are excited, but we cannot be yet.

  • Alan Watson

    Very secretive, maybe good reason, but who knows, they are excited, but we cannot be yet.

  • jazz

    imagine that it works and its cheap to install…the real problem is: how will they tax you !! sun tax? non poluting tax? that’s why it will not come true. :)))

  • jazz

    imagine that it works and its cheap to install…the real problem is: how will they tax you !! sun tax? non poluting tax? that’s why it will not come true. :)))

  • Dorothy

    I think it’s funny how many of the commenters are stubbornly clinging to the conviction that there’s nothing we can do about the rulership of the old systems instead of allowing themselves at least a bit of HOPE that things could change, after all.

    I wholeheartedly embrace any idea that will bring us cheaper energy and I’m 100% positive that there will be lots of new inventions soon (if it is this or something else I don’t care) and that nobody can stop this movement, just because the time’s ripe for it.

    Free or cheap energy is what we wish for for many years and this wish will come true, and I could bet that it will not be a highly complicated or expensive thing, but something so simple, just requiring new thinking or a new perspective, that anybody afterwards will say “Why didn’t we think about that before???”.

    The clue will be the new thinking, not new materials.

  • Dorothy

    I think it’s funny how many of the commenters are stubbornly clinging to the conviction that there’s nothing we can do about the rulership of the old systems instead of allowing themselves at least a bit of HOPE that things could change, after all.

    I wholeheartedly embrace any idea that will bring us cheaper energy and I’m 100% positive that there will be lots of new inventions soon (if it is this or something else I don’t care) and that nobody can stop this movement, just because the time’s ripe for it.

    Free or cheap energy is what we wish for for many years and this wish will come true, and I could bet that it will not be a highly complicated or expensive thing, but something so simple, just requiring new thinking or a new perspective, that anybody afterwards will say “Why didn’t we think about that before???”.

    The clue will be the new thinking, not new materials.

  • http://www.mbarqtech.com Dirk

    Don’t worry about explosive hydrogen in Joe’s basement- he probably already has enough gasoline and natural gas to create a much larger explosion.

    The great thing about humans is that their prediliction to blow things up (especially other people) is generally very, very, very small. The odds you, or anyone in your family, will get blown up are much lower than that you’ll die in a car crash or drowning.

  • http://www.mbarqtech.com Dirk

    Don’t worry about explosive hydrogen in Joe’s basement- he probably already has enough gasoline and natural gas to create a much larger explosion.

    The great thing about humans is that their prediliction to blow things up (especially other people) is generally very, very, very small. The odds you, or anyone in your family, will get blown up are much lower than that you’ll die in a car crash or drowning.

  • http://www.boredquiz.com/ Bored

    this is awesome. i hope we as a nation do eventually become energy exporters.

  • http://www.boredquiz.com/ Bored

    this is awesome. i hope we as a nation do eventually become energy exporters.

  • Tre

    I meant to say “to power hydrogen fuel cells”

  • Tre

    I meant to say “to power hydrogen fuel cells”

  • Tre

    What’s new about this? People have been talking about using electrolysis to make hydrogen for fuell cells for year. Doesn’t take an MIT degree to figure it out.

  • Tre

    What’s new about this? People have been talking about using electrolysis to make hydrogen for fuell cells for year. Doesn’t take an MIT degree to figure it out.

  • dl_in_co

    I don’t buy it. Why is solar the prefered energy source? If they’ve actually created a cost-effective and viable processes, why not use wind farms and store the hydorgen in the towers. Then send it to hydrogen refueling stations via pipelines. Or, better yet, use it as a back-up for when the wind is not blowing to feed the grid. The grid is the world’s largest battery and we should use it. Putting a low eff. solar power panel on every roof is stupid..they waste a tremendous amount of water in the mfg. process, they are expensive, and they not effiecent at producing elec…they are 50 years – minimum – from being ready for prime time.

  • dl_in_co

    I don’t buy it. Why is solar the prefered energy source? If they’ve actually created a cost-effective and viable processes, why not use wind farms and store the hydorgen in the towers. Then send it to hydrogen refueling stations via pipelines. Or, better yet, use it as a back-up for when the wind is not blowing to feed the grid. The grid is the world’s largest battery and we should use it. Putting a low eff. solar power panel on every roof is stupid..they waste a tremendous amount of water in the mfg. process, they are expensive, and they not effiecent at producing elec…they are 50 years – minimum – from being ready for prime time.

  • Just watching

    Same old story,”ten years or so”!!!!

  • Just watching

    Same old story,”ten years or so”!!!!

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    I need to do some more research, but this sounds like it’s a practical prototype for a regenerative fuel cell. NASA has been working for years to produce one, but to my knowledge, hasn’t been able to do so in an efficient manner. The seperation of the atoms has required more power than the output from the fuel cell.

    Also, if the fuel cell is not using platinum, then this is truly a breakthrough of immense proportion. Platinum is very expensive.

    So, what we would have – if the information is correct – is a cheaply produced fuel cell that uses solar power on water to make electricity and then restore the fuel back into water again for later reuse. The cycle could potentially go on forever.

    That’s exciting.

  • http://writertotheworld.com Writer to the World

    I need to do some more research, but this sounds like it’s a practical prototype for a regenerative fuel cell. NASA has been working for years to produce one, but to my knowledge, hasn’t been able to do so in an efficient manner. The seperation of the atoms has required more power than the output from the fuel cell.

    Also, if the fuel cell is not using platinum, then this is truly a breakthrough of immense proportion. Platinum is very expensive.

    So, what we would have – if the information is correct – is a cheaply produced fuel cell that uses solar power on water to make electricity and then restore the fuel back into water again for later reuse. The cycle could potentially go on forever.

    That’s exciting.

  • Think_Bank

    For the most part, this is just another form of storage, just another battery. Not too exciting. If this can use pure sunlight to split water, then that would be exciting.

    Metal hydride matrix storage technologies can store hydrogen more efficiently and safely, but why bother?

    When you can drill a hole in the ground and pure hydrogen is the product then fuel cells would be worthwhile.

    Genetic engineering, with the end result being a gasoline derivative from a plant that does not need to be harvested, would be a much more practical use of time and energy – that could be used to power the overwhelming majority of our vehicles today.

  • Think_Bank

    For the most part, this is just another form of storage, just another battery. Not too exciting. If this can use pure sunlight to split water, then that would be exciting.

    Metal hydride matrix storage technologies can store hydrogen more efficiently and safely, but why bother?

    When you can drill a hole in the ground and pure hydrogen is the product then fuel cells would be worthwhile.

    Genetic engineering, with the end result being a gasoline derivative from a plant that does not need to be harvested, would be a much more practical use of time and energy – that could be used to power the overwhelming majority of our vehicles today.

  • Sid Davis

    As with all these “solutions”, what is the total amount of energy used compared to the energy made available, and then compare this to the same equation for present sources that we use.

    So many times we find out the wonderful discovery actually uses more energy than it produces; witness the ethanol from corn debacle.

    What I read here is that someone has come up with what he thinks is a more efficient way to convert electrical energy into hydrogen by liberating the hydrogen from water. No matter how efficient his process, there will be energy loss from the conversion process and the energy in the produced hydrogen will be less than was in the electricity used to liberate it. Forget where the electricity came from, because that must stand on its own. Remember that energy (and hydrogen) is a carrier of energy, not a source.

    So it is an intellectual scam to link his process to the way the electricity is generated.

    However, Mr. MIT has choses to look GREEN by linking his process to solar panels, so maybe it would be interesting to see what amount of energy is produced by these solar panels as compared to how much energy is used in the manufacture and maintenance of of these panels, not to mention the additional energy used to produce the equipment for the subsequent hydrogen manufacture.

    If you ask me, I would say this guy is looking for his 15 minutes of fame. He is either incompetent, a deliberate scam artist, or so high on dope he cannot make contact with reality. If he wants to argue that solar is an adequate way to replace oil, natural gas, and coal, then let us see the numbers.

    Wishful thinking!

  • Sid Davis

    As with all these “solutions”, what is the total amount of energy used compared to the energy made available, and then compare this to the same equation for present sources that we use.

    So many times we find out the wonderful discovery actually uses more energy than it produces; witness the ethanol from corn debacle.

    What I read here is that someone has come up with what he thinks is a more efficient way to convert electrical energy into hydrogen by liberating the hydrogen from water. No matter how efficient his process, there will be energy loss from the conversion process and the energy in the produced hydrogen will be less than was in the electricity used to liberate it. Forget where the electricity came from, because that must stand on its own. Remember that energy (and hydrogen) is a carrier of energy, not a source.

    So it is an intellectual scam to link his process to the way the electricity is generated.

    However, Mr. MIT has choses to look GREEN by linking his process to solar panels, so maybe it would be interesting to see what amount of energy is produced by these solar panels as compared to how much energy is used in the manufacture and maintenance of of these panels, not to mention the additional energy used to produce the equipment for the subsequent hydrogen manufacture.

    If you ask me, I would say this guy is looking for his 15 minutes of fame. He is either incompetent, a deliberate scam artist, or so high on dope he cannot make contact with reality. If he wants to argue that solar is an adequate way to replace oil, natural gas, and coal, then let us see the numbers.

    Wishful thinking!

  • Lee C

    Tim….Eel Tamer and Jim are both correct and it appears it is you who have misunderstood ITM Powers technology. They have invented a new material that is 1% the cost of the competition and it’s this material that is used to produce electrolysed hydrogen cheaply.

    In addition they claim the same cross-linked hydrophilic polymer material that is used in their platinum free electrolysers has also been patented for possible use in a revolutionary solar cell that has the ability to split water directly into oxygen and hydrogen using sunlight. In other words a remarkably similar claim to MIT’s?.

    The difference is as Jim states, ITM are currently undergoing prototype testing of their first products containing this new material NOW [Home Refuelling Unit/ The Green Box] and should be shipping to partners for evaluation before the end of the year. Cheap fuel cells using the same chemistry are also being developed and scheduled for completion in late 2009.

    It appears the first shoots of a viable hydrogen economy will be arriving much sooner than most people believe. I can say for sure the wait will be a lot less than 10 years.

    http://www.itm-power.com/

  • Lee C

    Tim….Eel Tamer and Jim are both correct and it appears it is you who have misunderstood ITM Powers technology. They have invented a new material that is 1% the cost of the competition and it’s this material that is used to produce electrolysed hydrogen cheaply.

    In addition they claim the same cross-linked hydrophilic polymer material that is used in their platinum free electrolysers has also been patented for possible use in a revolutionary solar cell that has the ability to split water directly into oxygen and hydrogen using sunlight. In other words a remarkably similar claim to MIT’s?.

    The difference is as Jim states, ITM are currently undergoing prototype testing of their first products containing this new material NOW [Home Refuelling Unit/ The Green Box] and should be shipping to partners for evaluation before the end of the year. Cheap fuel cells using the same chemistry are also being developed and scheduled for completion in late 2009.

    It appears the first shoots of a viable hydrogen economy will be arriving much sooner than most people believe. I can say for sure the wait will be a lot less than 10 years.

    http://www.itm-power.com/

  • Jim

    ITM Power have already accomplished this and have an electrolyser made from a very low cost plastic……my guess is you will have to wait a max of 2 months to see the production models sent out on test……

  • Jim

    ITM Power have already accomplished this and have an electrolyser made from a very low cost plastic……my guess is you will have to wait a max of 2 months to see the production models sent out on test……

  • Inda

    Does anyone really think the power companies are going to let us generate our own usable power to the extent of cutting them out all together?

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Robert Henry

    So they take water, using solar power and they split it to hydrogen and oxygen. Later it is run through a fuel cell to make electricity.

    All I’m hearing are generalist comments. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the interviewer or the author or the scientist, but there are very basic questions that should have been answered by this article.

    Before this invention how much energy was lost from splitting water and later reclaiming the energy?

    After this invention, what is their estimate of the energy saving?

    What are the problems of hydrogen storage?

    Their is just too much fluff and not enough substance.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Robert Henry

    So they take water, using solar power and they split it to hydrogen and oxygen. Later it is run through a fuel cell to make electricity.

    All I’m hearing are generalist comments. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the interviewer or the author or the scientist, but there are very basic questions that should have been answered by this article.

    Before this invention how much energy was lost from splitting water and later reclaiming the energy?

    After this invention, what is their estimate of the energy saving?

    What are the problems of hydrogen storage?

    Their is just too much fluff and not enough substance.

  • Stan

    The energy companies with Swiftboat the idea, and that will be the end of it.

  • Stan

    The energy companies with Swiftboat the idea, and that will be the end of it.

  • http://www.littlebigplanetcheats.com/ Mr. Little

    I can see a day in the future where every home will have some type of technology like this. I just hope its in our lifetime.

  • http://www.littlebigplanetcheats.com/ Mr. Little

    I can see a day in the future where every home will have some type of technology like this. I just hope its in our lifetime.

  • Takashi

    that will not happen anytime soon… energy companies will not want you to be independent… who will pay them then? … they might lobby to pass some ridiculous laws… Also the manufacture of this might be dirt cheap, as many things today are (let me guess why…)…but they will sell it like they had to give limbs for it… “open source” the plans to prevent monopoly and one sided control, so the ppl can benefit from this technology…

  • Takashi

    that will not happen anytime soon… energy companies will not want you to be independent… who will pay them then? … they might lobby to pass some ridiculous laws… Also the manufacture of this might be dirt cheap, as many things today are (let me guess why…)…but they will sell it like they had to give limbs for it… “open source” the plans to prevent monopoly and one sided control, so the ppl can benefit from this technology…

  • Felix

    I think it is not a news. The photocatalytic water splitting with photocatalysts under solar light has been widely researched and reported more than 20 years ago.

  • Felix

    I think it is not a news. The photocatalytic water splitting with photocatalysts under solar light has been widely researched and reported more than 20 years ago.

  • Johnny

    There is nothing new in this story, except that a new catalyst has been discovered.

    So in the interests of saving the planet, is this guy giving his catalyst to the world for free? Or is MIT keeping it secret for their own profit…

    If they really cared they would let the world know what they have found.

  • Johnny

    There is nothing new in this story, except that a new catalyst has been discovered.

    So in the interests of saving the planet, is this guy giving his catalyst to the world for free? Or is MIT keeping it secret for their own profit…

    If they really cared they would let the world know what they have found.

  • tedson

    The phrase “uses natural materials, is inexpensive to conduct and is easy to set up” would seem to make this available to anyone today. That doesn’t compute with the “within 10 years” statement later in the article. I have seen far too many of these “revolutionary” discoveries that never seem to make it to an real physical product. What I would expect to see from the info in this article is a do-it-yourself demo since it is supposed to be so easy to make.

  • tedson

    The phrase “uses natural materials, is inexpensive to conduct and is easy to set up” would seem to make this available to anyone today. That doesn’t compute with the “within 10 years” statement later in the article. I have seen far too many of these “revolutionary” discoveries that never seem to make it to an real physical product. What I would expect to see from the info in this article is a do-it-yourself demo since it is supposed to be so easy to make.

  • Roy Lent

    Rick Jolly asks what the process is. As said in the article it is photosynthesis, the direct use of the energy in light to split hydrogen out of water also releasing oxygen. Electrolysis is the use of electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Obviously using light energy directly is far better than making electricity first from light, then spliting water with the electricity. Personally I prefer using solar thermal energy to heat vegetable oil than running Stirling engine generators at night from the heat.

  • Roy Lent

    Rick Jolly asks what the process is. As said in the article it is photosynthesis, the direct use of the energy in light to split hydrogen out of water also releasing oxygen. Electrolysis is the use of electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Obviously using light energy directly is far better than making electricity first from light, then spliting water with the electricity. Personally I prefer using solar thermal energy to heat vegetable oil than running Stirling engine generators at night from the heat.

  • Kwame

    “The process, loosely based on plant photosynthesis, uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases.”

    That is the new part for everyone who is confused.

  • Kwame

    “The process, loosely based on plant photosynthesis, uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases.”

    That is the new part for everyone who is confused.

  • http://www.mit.edu Ekbart

    Unfortunately this is yet another PR release from a university desperate to appear relevant and competent. A totally stupid idea, hydrogen is a terrible gas to work with: invisible, superfast flame speed, odorless, and horrible to store, and not efficient to convert back to electricity, etc.

    25% of the energy in the US is used to heat hot water. Why not just do low-tech heating of water on rooftops, to preheat water tanks. When is the usa going to do the obvious, cost-effective things instead of chasing rainbows?

  • http://www.mit.edu Ekbart

    Unfortunately this is yet another PR release from a university desperate to appear relevant and competent. A totally stupid idea, hydrogen is a terrible gas to work with: invisible, superfast flame speed, odorless, and horrible to store, and not efficient to convert back to electricity, etc.

    25% of the energy in the US is used to heat hot water. Why not just do low-tech heating of water on rooftops, to preheat water tanks. When is the usa going to do the obvious, cost-effective things instead of chasing rainbows?

  • http://cleannewpower.com/solar-power-home/ SolarPowerHome

    Looking forward to an affordable production model. Even if this reduces your electricity bill with only a small amount, I imagine the large scale use would make a significant impact on the world usage of fossil fuels.

  • http://cleannewpower.com/solar-power-home/ SolarPowerHome

    Looking forward to an affordable production model. Even if this reduces your electricity bill with only a small amount, I imagine the large scale use would make a significant impact on the world usage of fossil fuels.

  • http://www.funnycoolstuff.com Maria

    Great! The best solution for energy resources. Soon cars will have no problem powered by solar power and car should park at outdoor parking instead of indoor parking to get solar power.

  • http://www.funnycoolstuff.com Maria

    Great! The best solution for energy resources. Soon cars will have no problem powered by solar power and car should park at outdoor parking instead of indoor parking to get solar power.

  • Reality

    ALL this article states is the REVOLUTIONARY use of using SOLAR CELLS to generate electricity for ELECTROLYSIS! NOTHING new at all.

    http://www.pureenergysystems.com/news/2004/08/27/6900038_SolarHydrogen/index.html

    So it doesn’t say it produces electricity intermediately, like the other article I read which used I believe cobalt for the anodes.

  • Reality

    ALL this article states is the REVOLUTIONARY use of using SOLAR CELLS to generate electricity for ELECTROLYSIS! NOTHING new at all.

    http://www.pureenergysystems.com/news/2004/08/27/6900038_SolarHydrogen/index.html

    So it doesn’t say it produces electricity intermediately, like the other article I read which used I believe cobalt for the anodes.

  • Tim

    EelTamer, what you’re describing only sound like ways of using hydrogen, not producing it. The new MIT process is for making hydrogen from solar. Making hydrogen efficiently is the hard part, using it is easy. In the “home refueling units” you reference, where does the hydrogen (or energy to make the hydrogen) come from?

  • Tim

    EelTamer, what you’re describing only sound like ways of using hydrogen, not producing it. The new MIT process is for making hydrogen from solar. Making hydrogen efficiently is the hard part, using it is easy. In the “home refueling units” you reference, where does the hydrogen (or energy to make the hydrogen) come from?

  • David

    This was in a different journal a month or so ago and the process was outlined as a new form of electrolysis that requires less energy to separate the molecules do to some type of inexpensive additive. Some type of a salt if remember.

  • Tahiri

    I look forward to a future where we are able to power our houses and cars via this technology.

    I do not look forward to a future where average Joe has a tank of explosive hydrogen gas in their basement or attic

  • David

    This was in a different journal a month or so ago and the process was outlined as a new form of electrolysis that requires less energy to separate the molecules do to some type of inexpensive additive. Some type of a salt if remember.

  • Tahiri

    I look forward to a future where we are able to power our houses and cars via this technology.

    I do not look forward to a future where average Joe has a tank of explosive hydrogen gas in their basement or attic

  • Marcus

    This covers the long standing problem of splitting out hydrogen and oxygen from water in a cost efficient way. That is a huge accomplishment though I’m not sure I understand the great excitement as far as home generation of electricity from the gases is concerned. A fuel cell is still a very, very expensive piece of hardware. It’s one of the factors holding back hydrogen as a source of energy mostly owing to the expense of materials in the cells (platinum anyone?). Oh and I look forward to the discussions of convincing people to store hydrogen in their homes with their children. Despite my rather glib critique here, I genuinely want tech like this to succeed but we must acknowledge a need to be tempered and pragmatic with solutions.

  • Marcus

    This covers the long standing problem of splitting out hydrogen and oxygen from water in a cost efficient way. That is a huge accomplishment though I’m not sure I understand the great excitement as far as home generation of electricity from the gases is concerned. A fuel cell is still a very, very expensive piece of hardware. It’s one of the factors holding back hydrogen as a source of energy mostly owing to the expense of materials in the cells (platinum anyone?). Oh and I look forward to the discussions of convincing people to store hydrogen in their homes with their children. Despite my rather glib critique here, I genuinely want tech like this to succeed but we must acknowledge a need to be tempered and pragmatic with solutions.

  • Eel Tamer

    Sounds like what ITM Power in the UK have been developing for years. They now have test production of “home refuelling units’ underway in Sheffield, England and a Ford Focus converted to allow the first 30 miles on hydrogen before switching back to regular gas for longer journeys. The hydrogen can also be used to power a fuel cell to provide power for the home. They have eliminated the need for platinium in the electrolysis process, making it far more economical.

    How is MIT’s system different and why will it take 10 years to be commercially viable?

  • Eel Tamer

    Sounds like what ITM Power in the UK have been developing for years. They now have test production of “home refuelling units’ underway in Sheffield, England and a Ford Focus converted to allow the first 30 miles on hydrogen before switching back to regular gas for longer journeys. The hydrogen can also be used to power a fuel cell to provide power for the home. They have eliminated the need for platinium in the electrolysis process, making it far more economical.

    How is MIT’s system different and why will it take 10 years to be commercially viable?

  • Aaron Bryant

    Now MIT is taking credit for Electrolysis? it’s not rocket science to figure out that hydrogen is the way to store solar power. Make a non bull**** way of storing hydrogen from solar power in a working model, then sell said model to the general public at a non astronomical cost, and we (America) will adopt this development within ten years. If we talk about it for the next decade instead of work to produce such technology than it will not be adopted. Is MIT prepared to sell this idea to someone who will bring it to market, or sit on it while our current oil war rages on?

  • Aaron Bryant

    Now MIT is taking credit for Electrolysis? it’s not rocket science to figure out that hydrogen is the way to store solar power. Make a non bull**** way of storing hydrogen from solar power in a working model, then sell said model to the general public at a non astronomical cost, and we (America) will adopt this development within ten years. If we talk about it for the next decade instead of work to produce such technology than it will not be adopted. Is MIT prepared to sell this idea to someone who will bring it to market, or sit on it while our current oil war rages on?

  • Deathcapt

    GG, this is nothing new. Unless it’s a more efficient process than electrolysis. The problem is that the cell still wont produce anymore juice. Most people who have solar cells, are still attached to the grid, and just use the cells to feed electricity into the grid on High sunlight low usage days. Using solar energy to reduce aluminum would also be a good way of doing this, cause it’s easier to store aluminum than hydrogen gas. You can use aluminum metal to produce hydrogen if you mix it with the right stuff.

  • Deathcapt

    GG, this is nothing new. Unless it’s a more efficient process than electrolysis. The problem is that the cell still wont produce anymore juice. Most people who have solar cells, are still attached to the grid, and just use the cells to feed electricity into the grid on High sunlight low usage days. Using solar energy to reduce aluminum would also be a good way of doing this, cause it’s easier to store aluminum than hydrogen gas. You can use aluminum metal to produce hydrogen if you mix it with the right stuff.

  • http://alum.mit.edu/www/bens Ben

    The video shows that the actual invention here is a higher-efficiency catalyst to serve as the electrode for electrolysis. Current catalysts are typically made of platinum or other rare precious metals. This catalyst is made from “earth abundant materials”, meaning elements that are not so expensive, thus reducing the cost of building high-efficiency electrolyzers.

  • http://alum.mit.edu/www/bens Ben

    The video shows that the actual invention here is a higher-efficiency catalyst to serve as the electrode for electrolysis. Current catalysts are typically made of platinum or other rare precious metals. This catalyst is made from “earth abundant materials”, meaning elements that are not so expensive, thus reducing the cost of building high-efficiency electrolyzers.

  • Richard

    Sounds great, lets hope that they soon can make a prototype that can demonstrate a working system.

    Until this actually reach production, there are other ways to store solar energy. The new Andasol solar-thermal power plant in south Spain can generate 50MW also after sunset! This is done by storing part of the heat in molten salt storage tanks that can continue generate the steam for the turbines 6 hours after the sun is gone.

    The Andasol 1 plant is undergoing final tests and is expected to enter production within weeks. Further Andasol plants are under development. Andasol 2 is expected to be ready during spring 2009.

  • Richard

    Sounds great, lets hope that they soon can make a prototype that can demonstrate a working system.

    Until this actually reach production, there are other ways to store solar energy. The new Andasol solar-thermal power plant in south Spain can generate 50MW also after sunset! This is done by storing part of the heat in molten salt storage tanks that can continue generate the steam for the turbines 6 hours after the sun is gone.

    The Andasol 1 plant is undergoing final tests and is expected to enter production within weeks. Further Andasol plants are under development. Andasol 2 is expected to be ready during spring 2009.

  • Rick Jolly

    What is the process? Electrolysis? This is only news if MIT has discovered a more efficient alternative to electrolysis in converting electricity into hydrogen.

  • Rick Jolly

    What is the process? Electrolysis? This is only news if MIT has discovered a more efficient alternative to electrolysis in converting electricity into hydrogen.

    • Keez

      It is electrolysis but carbon free then run the hydrogen threw a fuel cell and it make more water for the system.

  • Eric

    Wasn’t something like this announced a couple of months ago? I remember reading about a similar (if not the same) process.

  • Eric

    Wasn’t something like this announced a couple of months ago? I remember reading about a similar (if not the same) process.

  • KinOfCain

    There’s still no way this will be able to compete with using the grid as a battery. It doesn’t matter how efficient they make it, as far as my power bill is concerned I get 100% efficiency by using the grid.

  • KinOfCain

    There’s still no way this will be able to compete with using the grid as a battery. It doesn’t matter how efficient they make it, as far as my power bill is concerned I get 100% efficiency by using the grid.

Back to Top ↑