MIT Energy Storage Discovery Could Lead to ‘Unlimited’ Solar Power

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered a new way of storing energy from sunlight that could lead to ‘unlimited’ solar power.

The process, loosely based on plant photosynthesis, uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. When needed, the gases can then be re-combined in a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity whether the sun is shining or not.

According to project leader Prof. Daniel Nocera, “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years. Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now, we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.

Nocera has also explained that the process (video) uses natural materials, is inexpensive to conduct and is easy to set up. “That’s why I know this is going to work. It’s so easy to implement,” he said.

Other prominent scientists in the field have rushed to highlight the revolutionary potential of the new process. According to James Barber, biochemistry professor at Imperial College London, this research is a ‘giant leap’ towards generating clean, carbon-free energy on as massive scale. In a statement, he also said:

“This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind. The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production, thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem.”

No news has yet been released of a predicted timescale to commericial development or mainstream adoption. However, Nocera has said that he’s hopeful that within 10 years homes will no longer be powered using electricity-by-wire from a central source. Instead, homeowners will be able to harness solar power during daylight hours and use this new energy storage method for electricity at night.

Source: CleanTechnica

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Published in: on August 16, 2009 at 2:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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MIT preparing to unleash solar power revolution

A new revolution in solar power is set to bring energy from the sun into the night. A major barrier to large-scale solar power is having a way to store the sun’s energy so that it can be used at night or when skies are cloudy.

Solar power has historically been restricted to being a daytime source of energy as conventional photovoltaic solar panels produce energy only when the sun is shining. Storing solar energy for use at night has been expensive and inefficient. However, the Massachussettes Institute of Technology, or MIT, has announced that they have developed a simple, inexpensive, and very efficient solar energy storage process.

“This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power…Read More.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Nuclear power plants: Shaping new fuels for higher efficiency

MIT researchers have created innovative designs for nuclear fuels that will allow the cooling water inside a nuclear reactor to extract more heat from the uranium fuel. Their new fuels have channels that increase the exposed hot surface area and bumps that churn up the passing water, ensuring that fresh water is continuously brought to the hot surface, thus increasing the cooling effect. These new designs could boost the amount of energy recovered in the same volume of fuel by 30–50 percent, while reducing the cost of electricity by as much as 7 percent.

Nuclear power plants now provide about one-fifth of all the electricity used in the United States. Adding more nuclear plants—or getting more power out of the ones we have—could help us meet growing energy demand without adding to greenhouse gas emissions or oil imports.

At MIT, researchers are looking to improve both current and future plants by changing the design—or “geometry”—of the fuel inside the reactor. “We’ve had many…Read More.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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