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Researchers say in ten years the discovery could lead to homes that capture solar energy to make hydrogen for power

The main method for getting hydrogen out of water – electrolysis -- has been around for a long time. Electrolysis breaks water into hydrogen and oxygen and is currently used in many industrial processes where hydrogen is needed.

The problem with hydrolysis is that it is not particularly efficient because power is needed to produce the electrical current that breaks the hydrogen and oxygen out of the water. The other issue that makes hydrolysis expensive to perform is that the electrodes used tend to be made from very expensive and precious metals like platinum.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new catalyst material that can be used for hydrolysis in water. Rather than expensive metals like platinum, the new material devised at MIT uses cobalt phosphate.

The researchers hope to use the new catalyst material to develop a closed-loop system that can make hydrogen with power gathered from solar energy or other electrical sources. The closed-loop concept would have hydrogen and water running though a fuel cell and the water would be recaptured and used again.

The researchers hope that within ten years the technology will yield a cost-effective system that combines clean energy generation with storage. The new catalyst material can operate in plain water at normal atmospheric pressure.

John turner from the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) says the work from MIT is a "significant result" reports Turner goes on to say, "The initial results look promising but it doesn't answer all the things you need in a catalyst."

MIT has patented the research and researchers at MIT in the electrical and mechanical engineering departments have committed to working with the research. Ultimately, the researchers envision a system for use in homes around the world that could be free from the power grid and have the ability to make and store enough power to be self-sufficient.

In late 2007, researchers from Penn State University developed a process for making hydrogen using microbes rather than electricity.

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By daftrok on 7/31/2008 6:55:39 PM , Rating: 2
What is the ratio between power input from the solar panel and power output of the harvested hydrogen?

RE: Thermodynamics...
By TETRONG on 7/31/2008 7:11:03 PM , Rating: 5
10% from fusion to vibrator.

RE: Thermodynamics...
By TennesseeTony on 7/31/2008 10:54:04 PM , Rating: 2
Excellent question. Why waste 90% of your solar generated energy?

However, I think it still has great merit, because of the STORAGE capability (nighttime). Yes, you could use batteries, but they degrade and contain lead, etc etc.

It's an interesting option though...

RE: Thermodynamics...
By TSS on 8/1/2008 2:46:27 PM , Rating: 2
you awnsered your own question. hydrogen won't be used as much for generating energy but more storing it.

besides it's that way with all fossil fules. when your car burns petrol, it might've as well run on all the energy used to get that gallon of petrol into your tank (pumping up oil, transport to refinery's, refining the oil itself with machines using gasoline (which also had to be made and such) transporting it to fueling stations, getting it into your tank (by using pumps using energy) and eventually pumping it into your car enigne).

RE: Thermodynamics...
By rcc on 8/1/2008 4:41:30 PM , Rating: 4
Much more energy comes out of that gallon of gas/diesel fuel than went into the extraction and distribution of said full.

The same cannot be said for Hydrogen and Bio fuel alternatives.

RE: Thermodynamics...
By Keeir on 8/1/2008 12:18:49 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the efficiency of todays fuel cells is at best 50% electrical output (with the rest going towards heat, potentially useful as a heating loop...)

Straight storage with a high efficiency battery (like Lithium-Ion) would probably be significantly more efficient with charge efficiencies of 90%+.

Although lithium batteries are expensive, See Volt 16kWh ~$16,000, I thick a Fuel Cell + Water Splitter will be in the same range

Build Nuclear Power Plants
By Communism on 8/1/08, Rating: 0
RE: Build Nuclear Power Plants
By BansheeX on 8/1/2008 8:45:12 AM , Rating: 5
Not only are meltdowns not explosions, the only meltdown was over thirty years ago in a government operated RNK plant in soviet Russia. France is already 80% nuclear and the largest energy exporter in Europe. They would need something like a hundred meltdowns a year to equal the death and suffering caused by airborne particulates, water contamination, oil resource wars, bio-fuel induced food shortages/price spikes.

Ignorant fearmongering environmentalists like yourself should be charged with crimes against humanity for blocking American nuclear the last thirty years.

RE: Build Nuclear Power Plants
By pugnaciousg on 8/1/2008 4:41:14 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think there is anything incorrect in your statement, but you are omitting the achilles heel of nuclear power...nuclear waste.

France may be the largest energy exporter in Europe, but they also have a lot of waste.

"According to the study "La France nucléaire", published in 2002 by the World Information Service on Energy (WISE), each year the French nuclear station Eurodif, situated on the banks of the Rhone River, 700 km south of the French capital, produces 15,000 tonnes of depleted uranium.

Most of that waste is of no further use, and is simply stored at the nuclear plant. Today there are an estimated 200,000 tonnes of this nuclear material being warehoused there."

Everyone wants cheap power, but no one wants the leftovers buried in their backyard.

RE: Build Nuclear Power Plants
By masher2 on 8/1/2008 6:06:41 PM , Rating: 5
> "produces 15,000 tonnes of depleted uranium."

Depleted uranium is not "nuclear waste". It's *less* radioactive than the rock they dug out of the ground in the first place.

> " but no one wants the leftovers buried in their backyard."

If you live in a New England or Rocky Mountain state, or many other areas of the world, you already have several thousand pounds of radioactive waste buried in your backyard...waste left over from when Mother Nature made the planet.

RE: Build Nuclear Power Plants
By BansheeX on 8/1/2008 7:56:21 PM , Rating: 2
That's one of the reasons why it isn't anywhere near as dangerous. The actual waste product is extremely dense and not combustion based, making it voluminously small and easily captured and contained. How many people have died from nuclear power in the USA? 0. How many people have died from nuclear power in France? 0. How many people have died from wind farms? 15, and they are less than 1% of our power output. People fall while repairing them or parachute into them. They also kill a hell of a lot of migratory birds. So it's official, wind power is more dangerous than nuclear power, takes up vast amounts of space, only works when it's windy, and produces a fraction of the power nuclear can. Decent for rural areas, but little else.

NIMBY people are retards and don't know how pervasive this issue is. Millions are dying in resource wars and food riots. People are getting taxed for ethanol, others are starving from the high food prices. Smog from combustion is getting worse every day. And they apparently prefer all of it, because they keep waving their NIMBY signs against nuclear. Waiting for a magical power fairy, I guess.

By pugnaciousg on 8/4/2008 11:35:34 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, I'll bite. Let's do it, let's pull the trigger on this. Who do we write letters to, our congressmen? Ok, as long as we keep our Safety Culture and don't outsource any of the manufacturing/construction to lowest dollar bids. That can't happen, it's the DoE making the right calls making Americans safe against the lowest bidder. Wait, the U.S. doesn't do that anymore, we pay for our Safety! But heck this is about cheap energy, let's make it competitive. Let's get Walmart branded light water fission reactors and really save the bucks. We can get Starbucks to add little glowing mochachinos to their menus as a nationwide support campaign! We'd make a killing.

Seriously, if this way can save me a bunch on my energy/food/car insurance bill and I'll see the savings soon, I'm all for it. So who do we call?

Not just solar
By nafhan on 8/1/2008 8:43:12 AM , Rating: 2
After reading TFA, I noticed two things:

1. This doesn't have to be used with solar. It sounds like this catalyst would be a good fit anywhere hydrogen generation is needed.

2. Platinum is still the catalyst for the fuel cell! The fuel cell catalyst is the more important for a hydrogen economy as that is the one people would have in there vehicles, etc.

RE: Not just solar
By nafhan on 8/1/2008 8:51:22 AM , Rating: 2
OK, arstechnica has an interesting article on this stuff right now covering the same news from MIT as well as two new fuel cell technologies:

idea sounds promising
By RHiNoX on 7/31/2008 9:22:30 PM , Rating: 2
Here's hoping this works out to be cost effective.

Related News
By AnnihilatorX on 8/1/2008 4:05:33 AM , Rating: 2
Another news regarding using hydrogen fuel cells at home to store energy when sun is shining, and reproduce energy at night at:

They both mention cobalt oxide and both from MIT, are the researches sort of related?

By trekids9 on 8/1/2008 10:06:42 AM , Rating: 2
Is GM, Ford & Chrysler looking at this article and taking advantage of this new research or Japan, China and the rest of the world going to one up the US manufactures again.

I would love to see the car manufactures take advantage of this and produce a hydrogen fuel cell car in mass production and maybe they can start producing big cars again.

By roadrun777 on 8/2/2008 10:20:39 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, mark the day. I know the future.
Energy dependence is broken. The system for complete and absolute decentralized energy is real, and it has been done cheaply. It requires mass production of certain parts, yes, but the materials are cheap and abundant.
Don't let them fool you. In the future there is a revolt. Those who choose to get off the grid are jailed and rioting happens on a global scale. Energy is a currency, remember that. Energy dependence is the power to control. The reality is that the dependence on centralized energy will cease almost overnight. Consider it birth pains for humanity. I hope people are prepared for this. The leech that is on the back of the human race is about to die and it won't go out without a fight to the death.

Water = Electricity
By SnakeBlitzken on 8/4/2008 9:29:23 AM , Rating: 2
You all kill me. This is such good reading.

When tap water is used to make electricity, the utilities will charge $3 a gallon for your water. Suddenly, washing laundry will become a luxury.

The US produces more CO2 because we do more. If other nations had our size and productivity, they would produce more CO2. Throwing around that old worn-out cliche is getting old. Do some of you really think that other countries produce less by choice? Besides, there's still no evidence that CO2 is causing anything. If there is, I really want to read it.

Hope it works
By TechGuyCalifornia on 7/31/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hope it works
By Darkskypoet on 7/31/2008 10:33:10 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, China is 'Blatently' abusing the environment... Guess it really sucks to try and get 1/4 the worlds population to a decent living standard with somewhat outdated technology... Get a clue. Per capita their greenhouse gas emissions are about 1/8 of ours in North America:

Add to that the fact that any figures that currently measure such emissions and pollution DO NOT include imported goods. Thus all those lovely iPods for example aren't counted in current emissions calculations for the United States... No that would be added to China's total.

So really, get a clue. We are in no way more deserving of a decent standard of living then the Chinese people are, and as such quit your whining until they even approach our per capita emission figures. If anyone is 'blatently' destroying environments, we in the developed world are much farther up that list then the Chinese.

Industrial revolutions tend to be crappy, messy affairs. Just look into the history of the developed world. Funny that environmental protection, human, worker, and child rights didn't quite have the importance for our respective countries during ours either.

RE: Hope it works
By Alexstarfire on 7/31/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hope it works
By Communism on 8/1/2008 2:56:01 AM , Rating: 5
"Seriously, we all know that they are keeping their currency undervalued, therefore looking at it per capita isn't going to yield very accurate results."

Learn what per capita means before posting and looking like a complete retard

RE: Hope it works
By Ratinator on 8/1/2008 11:19:01 AM , Rating: 2
What in god's name does the value of their currency have to do with their per capita green house about head's exploding, I think yours may have blew up a while a ago.

RE: Hope it works
By bobcpg on 8/1/2008 12:09:27 AM , Rating: 5
Way to go Darkskypoet. Way to stay trendy and try to push the US to the brink. With your same logic I believe there is a reason we have came so far in such a short amount of time.

Funny how I goto other countries and see how they "abuse the environment" but yet some of us, Darkskypoet, seem to think getting that extra 0.05% better recycling program going in the US is a much bigger priority. Take the resources we use to get that extra 0.05% and put it in another "developing" country and they get a much bigger increase.

Unfortunately for you, and many others, it much easier to be a nay sayer about the US rather than actually but some thought into it.

RE: Hope it works
By banshee164 on 8/1/2008 8:53:46 AM , Rating: 2
Good job comparing China's 1994 data with ours from 2002... I have a feeling that China would be close to or past what we produce now in 2008 as a whole.

RE: Hope it works
By banshee164 on 8/1/2008 8:55:20 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Hope it works
By JustTom on 8/1/2008 12:24:47 PM , Rating: 2
The website you linked, carbonplanet, has data for the U.S. from 2002 and China from 1994. Hardly a fair comparasion.
Your point is still valid, the ratio is still mighty skewed.

Of course, one could argue carbon is not pollution. At the very least pollution is a lot more than just carbon. According to the world bank 16 of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world are in China.

RE: Hope it works
By Spuke on 8/1/2008 3:19:21 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, China has already passed us in greenhouse emissions.

This is from 2007:

RE: Hope it works
By jhb116 on 8/1/2008 2:53:31 AM , Rating: 2
So which part of CA are you from? You should already be aware that most of the South Western US struggles with fresh water supply as it is - ironically - the best area (for the US) that can take advantage of solar energy. Given the issues/struggles over water rights in the South West - where are we going to get all of that "plain" water from?

Before you say - hey there is this huge ocean there - yes and where are you going to put all of that salt which will be a main byproduct of using ocean water for H2?

RE: Hope it works
By DigitalFreak on 8/1/2008 7:47:07 AM , Rating: 2
The closed-loop concept would have hydrogen and water running though a fuel cell and the water would be recaptured and used again.

RE: Hope it works
By masher2 on 8/1/2008 6:07:50 PM , Rating: 2
> "yes and where are you going to put all of that salt which will be a main byproduct of using ocean water for H2?"

Back into the ocean you got it from?

RE: Hope it works
By roadrun777 on 8/2/2008 10:47:33 PM , Rating: 2
> "yes and where are you going to put all of that salt which will be a main byproduct of using ocean water for H2?" Back into the ocean you got it from?

You mean kind of like the evaporation process that put the salt their in the first place?

A parabolic mirror, a nice flash point, instant phase change, imagine...

RE: Hope it works
By nstott on 8/4/2008 12:55:19 AM , Rating: 2
Or in baggies to sell at Whole Foods... ;)

RE: Hope it works
By cenobite9 on 8/1/2008 6:56:22 PM , Rating: 3
> "yes and where are you going to put all of that salt which will be a main byproduct of using ocean water for H2?"

On my french fries...

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