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« Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) The good, the bad and the real ugly | Main | Vitamin D crucial to activating immune response »

March 06, 2010



Jeff in Oregon offers a few salient comments on a related energy list that I belong to--Walter Derzko

It has always been possible to split water molecules to H2 and O2 with electrolysis. The problem with the standard conversion is that it requires much more input energy than it produces in output energy. There is a big loss step again when you convert the H2 back to electricity again, even with a fuel cell.

The break-through here will be in the efficiency of the energy transaction, not in providing a brand new trick. At best this new technology is an improvement. If its good enough it might further motivate the effort to use hydrogen as an energy storage medium. There is also no reason to limit the energy input to solar panels. Windmills generate intermittent electricity. One can imagine associated hydrogen storage and large scale fuel cells integrated with a wind farm to even out the electricity placed on the grid.

Hydrogen still has a lot of issues that need to be worked out. Portable storage that is large enough and safe for personal transportation is still not good. Stationary storage has more choices.

Hydrogen fuel cells are not as well developed as you might think. The ones that convert efficiency don't have a long service life. The one's with a long service life are not efficient. [Watch for new metal hydride nanotechnology to store H2--Walter Derzko]

The third world example is a good one. If the new process is feasible in small scale, and therefore affordable, and is low cost and is efficient as a total system, then just to have a renewable process to generate H2 to burn for heating and cooking will go a long ways.

My first impression though is that it takes a lot of high-tech to put together a system like this. Its not likely to be in the hands of the 3rd world poor any time soon.

I don't see this development opening the door to a brand new energy source, rather it might provide a way to better utilize what we know how to produce already.

A breakthrough would be if I could drop a vial of enzymes [it's in the works--track synthetic biology R&D and nanocrystals that split water at --Walter Derzko]into a vat of water in a clear container, expose it to sunlight, and out of that evolve usable H2 in quantity -- that would be a new energy source. If it has to go through a solar PV panel to generate electricity first, then its just a way to store PV power.

This new electrolysis process is worth watching and might become a positive improvement in how we manage intermittent energy sources, we'll see.


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