MIT Develops Way to Bank Solar Energy at Home
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.