Efficient and Cheap Catalyst for Water Splitting

Dean Sigler Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

University of Houston physicists think they may have overcome the last hurdle to generating abundant hydrogen, a fuel that is as elusive as it is clean.  Their new catalyst, “composed of easily available, low-cost materials and operating far more efficiently than previous catalysts,” could solve at least one of the problems associated with generating and storing H2. Jeannie Kever, writing for the University newsletter, reports Paul C. W. Chu, TLL Temple Chair of Science and founding director and chief scientist of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH and colleagues physicists Zhifeng Ren and Shuo Chen, have created a catalyst “Cost-wise… much lower and performance-wise, much better.”  The quote comes from said Zhifeng Ren, M.D. Anderson professor of physics and lead …

Cheap Hydrogen, Anyone?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Researchers in Glasgow and at Stanford University have devised ways to decouple oxygen and hydrogen from water without resort to expensive extraction or storage techniques.  Both breakthroughs involve low-cost materials, low-energy requirements, and the production of clean hydrogen through what should be renewable energy resources. The latter overcomes one major objection to hydrogen production.  As Professor Lee Cronin of the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry explains, “Around 95% of the world’s hydrogen supply is currently obtained from fossil fuels, a finite resource which we know harms the environment and speeds climate change. Some of this hydrogen is used to make ammonia fertilizer and as such, fossil hydrogen helps feed more than half of the world’s population. “The potential for …

Turning Over a New Leaf at JCAP

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The blog has covered Professor Daniel Nocera’s “artificial leaf,” a means by which a flat panel in water and exposed to sunlight would generate clean water and hydrogen.  But that promising development has been set aside by the startup company Catalytix that attempted commercial development of the leaf for now.  Instead, the company is now pursuing the design of a practical low-cost flow battery for grid storage. Researchers at Berkeley’s Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), though, may have found a different approach to the artificial leaf that will overcome many shortcomings in its predecessors.  Gary Moore, a chemist and principal investigator with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, found that in his artificial leaf, “nearly 90-percent of the electrons generated …

New “Leaf” Turns Over More Energy

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Scientists have been working on imitating nature’s ability to photosynthesize the sun’s energy, much as plants turn that energy into food for their health and growth.  Daniel Nocera, for instance, created an artificial leaf that split water into oxygen and hydrogen that could fire up a small fuel cell and run an electric light.  According to a Science Pub lecture your editor recently attended, an eight-ounce glass of water can power a 60-Watt bulb for 20 hours.  Nocera, in a Pop! Tech talk, claims an Olympic-size swimming pool could supply all the world’s energy needs. Nocera now works at Harvard, but researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), his former home, are taking his work further, detailing all the limitations …

Spinach, Photosynthesis, and Solar Energy

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Spinach is the Rodney Dangerfield of the vegetable kingdom, and despite the best efforts of nutritionists, Popeye, and school lunch ladies to boost its respect levels, goes unwanted by many. But not by the team at Vanderbilt University who have combined it with silicon in a “biohybrid” solar cell. According to Vanderbilt’s David Cliffel, associate professor of chemistry, “This combination produces current levels almost 1,000 times higher than we were able to achieve by depositing the protein on various types of metals. It also produces a modest increase in voltage.” Cliffel collaborated on the project with Kane Jennings, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “If we can continue on our current trajectory of increasing voltage and current levels, we could …

The Artificial Leaf

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants 0 Comments

Daniel Nocera, Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy and professor of chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has caused a stir in the scientific community and attracted press attention including a recent feature article in the May 14 New Yorker. MIT’s own press release makes it sound all too simple and immediately appealing. “The artificial leaf — a silicon solar cell with different catalytic materials bonded onto its two sides — needs no external wires or control circuits to operate. Simply placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, it quickly begins to generate streams of bubbles: oxygen bubbles from one side and hydrogen bubbles from the other. If placed in a container that has a barrier to …