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How to turn water into rocket fuel - scientists unlock power of the sun - Science, News - The Independent

Scientists have devised a cheap and simple method of turning water into rocket fuel using solar power in a development that could generate a new source of green energy for the home and workplace.

The researchers used electricity from solar panels to split water into oxygen and hydrogen - the constituents of rocket fuel - with a technology that scientists believe could solve many of the problems that have hampered the development of solar energy.

With the help of a simple and yet highly efficient "chemistry set" made out of commonly available materials, the scientists have found a way of storing solar energy as a chemical fuel that can be used to power pollution-free electricity generators known as hydrogen fuel cells.

Until now the concept has stagnated because it has been too costly and difficult to use solar-generated electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen in a domestic setting, but the new method relies on the discovery of a catalyst that speeds up the conversion of water into high-energy fuel.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 03:13:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, progress only on the catalysis part. Why the tie to solar energy ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 03:43:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because solar energy has had issues with energy storage, ie no energy at night. The catalyser raises the efficiency of electrolysis to the point where useful quantities of hydrogen are produced that makes the use of expensive solar arrays viable for this process.

{I assume}

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 05:17:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I assume you're right. It's about energy storage. Same goes to some extent for wind power.

The hydrogen would be used to power fuel cells.

Alternatives would be battery storage or compressed air, or pumped water storage.

There was a recent post on TOD on compressed air storage, if you are interested.

The Oil Drum: Canada | Compressed Air Energy Storage - How viable is it?

One of the most critical aspects of the implementation of renewable electricity is the ability to store electricity.  If a good solution existed right now, our situation would be a good deal easier.  On the face of it, compressed air seems a likely candidate: relatively easy to make, store and use - so what is the problem?  Why isn't it used routinely?
More Thermodynamics than You Ever Wanted to Know?

We usually speak of storing and using energy without being very precise about what we mean.  That ends forever if you take a few chemistry or engineering courses.  Thermodynamics rules everything.

(Conclusion: compressed air isn't very good)

Likewise, with conversion to hydrogen the efficiency of the process is crucial.

Generation of hydrogen is one of the bottlenecks, another is storage.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 06:32:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Energy storage in the form of hydrogen is a problem of cost effectiveness times efficiency.  Daniel Nocera of MIT seems to have solved the problem for the electrode that generates hydrogen. He has devised a self regenerating electrode.  They use platinum for the oxygen side.  The problem there is price.

I can only presume that the reference to testing against platinum is for purposes of showing relative efficiency.   Platinum is almost the default catalyst for most reactions, where price is no object. Has long been so. Interesting article with links to other interesting work.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 08:29:44 PM EST
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