Monday, August 11, 2008

Imitating Photosynthesis, a breakthrough in Storage technology

Nature's most efficient energy producer and storage device: the green leaf (photo courtesy: Luca5)

Nature's most efficient energy maker?? The green leaf. In a process called photosynthesis, the leaf, uses chlorophyll to capture solar energy, water and carbon dioxide, and efficiently converts it into oxygen, water and starch/sugar. The leaf distributes the sugar/starch within the plant system, releases the oxygen for the world to breathe, and either keeps or discharges the water.

Oxygen is that thing that we breathe in and need to survive, and it is a great fuel source.

For years, scientists have tried unsuccessfully to mimic the green leaf. Then last week, renowned MIT Professor of Chemistry, Dan Nocera, announced a breakthrough. He had finally found a way to artificially mimic the leaf. I think he deserves (and frankly, he just might get it!) a Nobel Prize for this research. Its THAT big!

Why?? Free energy for the world...

To quote PSFK:

Scientists at MIT have developed what may be the holy grail of of solar power. In the past, the problem with solar was keeping the electricity flowing at night. Storing excess energy for use after sundown has traditionally been really expensive and highly inefficient. Now, by mimicking the way plants store energy MIT has created a way to store solar power in fuel cells that can keep power running around the clock.

MIT News reports:

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. “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 as unlimited and soon.”

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera’s lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun’s energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

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