Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Mar 29

Ceria Mimics Plant Life

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Ceria Newer and more exciting devices are being invented to harness renewable energy – especially solar energy. One such device is a prototype which uses one of the rare earth metals – ceria, otherwise known cerium oxide – utilizing its natural propensity of alternatively exhaling and inhaling oxygen as it heats up or cools down.

A new prototype

Formulated by US & Swiss researchers, this prototype has a quartz window and a small cavity to focus sunlight on a ceria-filled cylinder. With water and/or carbon dioxide being pumped into the vessel, hydrogen and/or carbon monoxide are created. Hydrogen by itself is used in hydrogen cells and by mixing hydrogen and carbon monoxide, fuel syngas can be produced.

Advantages

As against the conventional photovoltaic cells, hydrogen and syngas are fuels which can be stored, are portable and can be used any time. The metal ceria is abundantly available being the most commonly found rare-earth metal. Professor Sossina Haile, from California Institute of Technology, has claimed that ceria is most suited for this process and fit for massive-scale production of fuels like hydrogen and syngas. She also said that saying that this prototype mimics plants’ photosynthesis is too generalized and over simplistic though the basic ingredients and working may be the same.

Limitations

The fact that only some 0.7-0.8% of solar energy is being harnessed for fuel production with the rest being lost through heat or re-radiation makes this device rather inefficient. But improved insulation and smaller apertures are expected to make it a commercially workable option increasing the efficiency to some 19% or so.

Future plans

Daniel Davies, from Solar Century, a British firm called the research as ‘exciting’. The possibility of large-scale production and portability of the fuel are the plus points of this device according to him. But Professor Haile strongly contends that making or marring of this and other such prototypes depends very much on national and state-level carbon policy.

Challenges ahead

Cost efficiency, storage/portability and production efficiency are three main challenges that need to be met by the hybrid technology devices such as these prototypes. Various methods are deployed to meet these challenges like using an array of mirrors for focusing sunlight on receivers, molten salts to store heat for up to 15 hours. But the search is still on for the most cost effective, efficient and continuous renewable energy providing device.

  • Jillian

    But then we’ll be mining Ceria.


Floating Solar Panels: A Viable Solution?

floating-solar-pv

Since 2011, French Company Ciel & Terre has been developing large-scale floating solar solutions. Their innovative Hydrelio Floating PV system allows standard PV panels to be installed on large bodies

Tulip Shaped Solar Plants to be Installed in Ethiopia

tulip-solar-hybrid

AORA Solar has announced that it will begin construction of its solar-biogas power plants in Ethiopia. Construction of the first pilot plant will start by mid-2015. Ethiopia’s Minister of Water,

3D Printed Solar Energy Trees

3d-printed-solar-trees

How would nature do it? Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland may be discovering the answer, thanks to advancing solar and 3D printing technologies. They have developed

The Benefits of Solar Power (Infographic)

Solar Power World Map

Home Inspector Bill Barber recently created an excellent infographic that details how solar panels can power homes and help the environment at the same time. According to the infographic,

Oriental Hornet: Expert Solar Power Harvester

Oriental Hornet: Expert Solar Power Harvester

Do you know who is the most competent solar power expert, according to a research team from Tel Aviv University? It is the humble common Oriental hornet found

Brooklyn Bridge Park: Greenest Destination in New York City

Brooklyn Bridge Park: Greenest Destination in New York City

New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge Park is getting even greener with the addition of a solar powered electric vehicle (EV) charging station – the first of its kind in

Artificial Electronic Super Skin – Powered By Stretchable Solar Cells

Artificial Electronic Super Skin – Powered By Stretchable Solar Cells

Zhenan Bao, Stanford researcher, is keen to create “Super skin.” Taking her previously created super-sensitive sensor a step ahead, she is now creating a super skin that will be

PowerMod: To the Rescue

PowerMod: To the Rescue

Think of the earthquake that happened at Tahiti, or havoc-provoking typhoons like Katrina; or the recent plane crash that took so many lives. With man-made or natural disasters