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.
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