Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Aug 04

MIT Develops Way to Bank Solar Energy at Home

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Home Solar The fossil fuel scenario is pressing us to look for alternative sources of energy and that too, soon. We all are tightening our purse strings when fuel prices are rising irrespective of whether we own a vehicle or not. We need some dependable alternative source of energy to power our industries, offices and homes. Though we have abundance of air water, sunlight and tidal forces on this earth to produce power but one limitation or another always crops up before us which won’t allow these power sources to replace the fossil fuels completely.

In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the earth to provide the entire planet’s energy needs for one year. But we have been unable to trap the unlimited power of sun till now. The main problem is storage of sunlight. What should we do when the sun refuses to shine? Perhaps MIT professor Daniel Nocera might have an answer. He thinks that sunlight has the greatest potential to be an alternative source of power for the humankind.

MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT, is inspired by the photosynthesis process of plants. He states “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.” MIT researchers have come up with a simple, toxin free and highly efficient process for storing solar energy. During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to break water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms and later on the atoms recombine and produce energy. MIT scientists have tried to duplicate this method of plants to store sun’s energy.

The main constituent in Nocera and Kanan’s procedure is a new catalyst that generates oxygen gas from water and another catalyst produces hydrogen gas. The catalysts are cobalt and platinum. These new catalysts work at normal room temperature in neutral pH water and the whole system can be installed easily.

Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.

  • Jan Vermaut

    Which energy source is more efficient, solar or wind?

    This looks like an irrelevant question, or at least a poorly state one:

    1. wind energy is an indirect form of solar energy, as wind is generated through pressure differences in the atmosphere due to different heating effects on the atmosphere and oceans;

    2. inefficiency is a characteristic of transformation processes, not of energy sources. When speaking of efficient energy transformation processes, do we mean the actual situation, or the one with the most potential? and to we mean physical efficiency (percentage of energy available) or economic efficiency (giving you the most energy for one dollar) ?

  • Jim Barnett

    Very interesting subject, but the author should have included more facts or at least a reference for more info such as:

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/oxygen-0731.html

  • Randy Vincent

    I also would like to see all homes and vehicles solo. The problem is storage either with wind or solar. Combination systems solar, wind and tide where possible generate an excess of energy. Batteries are still expensive, net metering or sell back still keeps us on the grid. Storage on an individual (per home) situation thats the question. Answers anyone please:)

  • Chris

    Wind for practical reasons…you can’t buy a 45% efficient solar cell yet

  • Randy Vincent

    Wind is a source of energy not a method of storage. What I’m asking is where are the resonably priced batteries. Company names, producers of storage units thats what I need. I’ve read about some roof covering silicon based PV panels that also have a series of small lithium batteries run in an array that acccomplishes the same thing as a one or two big battery units (units the size of an a/c unit). Again any info on home storage that is not 20k for your basic home is what we all need. The PVs’ are equitable in even 5-10 years, its the storage that is keeping on the grid and solar energy for individuals out of resonable reach. Please reply with some real solutions. The sun shines, gives excessive energy (i.e. the second tallest building in Japan). But at night we need the excess to be stored on site, not repurchased from our local energy providers. And this is coming from someone in an area where it is straight metering return not net metering or no buy back at all. We need STORAGE plain and simple. Please reply with sources or resources for the same. Thankyou RV

  • gerry

    I believe compressed air in cars is the way to go. One could use wind power or mirrors onto a small sterling engine [hydogen] to operate over a long time. 12 hours say geared down to compress cylinders with air so that when you come home you slide one cylinder in the car and one out to be refilled.

  • Michael

    Kudos, we do need alternative sources of energy. But as we work on the subject lets seriously consider; ease of access of the energy, low cost alternatives and user friendly processes of tapping the energy. Lack of these is among factors that greatly slow down the initiatives for application of alternative energy technologies.

  • Shon

    Why pick one (solar or wind)? I imagine there’ll be a day when we figure out how to harness just about any type of energy that comes our way. At some point it won’t necessarily be about which one power source is used, but how many.

  • Euroflycars

    The MIT is a State-sponsored institute — and the State is on the side of the big energy lobbies keeping us hostages at the outlets of their supply networks.

    Hence, don’t expect the MIT to seriously contribute to breaking that State-corporative monopoly! At best, they will make believe that they hold the key to personal energy storage, at worst they’ll try hard to discourage private initiatives.

    After all, hundreds of millions of children around the world are still waiting for MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte’s 100-dollar-PC…

    Another Nicolas — i.e. Hayek, the father of the Swatch — has recently founded a Swiss company named Belenos Clean Power (with a member of its board of directors named… George Clooney), announcing the production of low cost popular photovoltaic cells and personal hydrogen production plants. But Hayek’s main associate is a bloke named Philippe Virdis, the boss of one of Switzerlands biggest electricity producers…

    And we should not forget that Hayek’s Swatchmobile (which is now the Smart) was a fake project originated by Volkswagen to curb a few advanced private projects of hybrid and electric cars in Switzerland — a country where no automaker was deemed to obstruct these initiatives…


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