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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 News.com. 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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Thermodynamics...
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


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