MIT professor Daniel Nocera and his chums have unveiled a simple and relatively inexpensive way to store solar energy for use at night. Traditional methods are cumbersome and expensive but the new process involves using a new form of catalyst which can produce oxygen from water, and combined with another catalyst can produce hydrogen which can be stored as fuel cells for energy production in the dark.
The whole electrolysis process can operate at room temperature and in simple containers, although the one downside is that it still needs something like Platinum to act as the catalyst for the hydrogen production. Still it’s a great step forward if it works as advertised, and could really transform our use of solar power in the home and business worlds. The video explains it in a little more detail.
The key component in Nocera and Kanan’s new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity — whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.