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Video: MIT develops solar storage "nirvana": energy crisis solved?

Thomas Ricker, @trixxy
August 1, 2008
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MIT is in a twisted, propeller-capped knot this morning heralding a new discovery it says will unleash a solar revolution. However, the "revolutionary leap" inspired by photosynthesis is not on the glamorous front-end of energy collection, rather, it's related to a simple, highly efficient and inexpensive way to store that energy when the sun doesn't shine. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," says Daniel Nocera, MIT neomaxizoomdweebie who with Matthew Kanan developed the unprecedented approach to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases using the sun's energy. The gases can then be recombined later inside a fuel cell. The key components to the process are a pair of catalysts (one consists of cobalt metal, phosphate, and an electrode; the other, platinum) which produce the O and H gases at room temperature and in neutral pH water (i.e., tap water). While similar solutions exist for industrial use (primarily), these are very expensive and require specialized environments.

"This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind," said James Barber, a leader in the study of photosynthesis at Imperial College in London. "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." Nocera concedes that further engineering is required to commercialize the approach but hopes to see it implemented in household fuel cell systems within the next 10 years. Click through for the video breakdown.

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