A new MIT technology to produce hydrogen

I never have been a fan of hydrogen-based energy solutions. Indeed, using energy to produce hydrogen that will produce electricity seems a tad too complex.

This may change with Professor Daniel Nocera from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who found a fantastic solution to produce Hydrogen in a much more efficient way.

This would make intermittent energy sources like solar and wind power much more interesting as one of their main drawbacks would be solved.

As Ecogeek notes :

A couple of scientists at MIT have created a new kind of catalyst that makes electrolysis much simpler, cheaper and efficient. Theoretically this could help save the world by:

  1. Creating a simple way to produce hydrogen fuel for our automobile fleet
  2. Storing electricity provided by intermittent renewables like wind and solar
  3. Storing electricity during cheap off-peak times for use during peak hours
  4. Eliminating the need for hydrogen transport, as it could be produced anywhere with connection to the electric grid

Probably the biggest deal here is number 2 and 3. We’ve already seen some steps toward a distributed power system where everyone has a fuel source in their house. Bloom Energy is hoping to create a system that would allow every person to have a hydrogen storage / electricity creation box in their home.

The new technique uses inexpensive catalysts containing cobalt and phosphate. But the biggest deal is that it bubbles 100% of the oxygen produced, meaning that they can close the loop and not have to discard any water to keep efficiency high.

Other electrolysis techniques don’t remove all of the O2 from he water, creating hydroxides that degrade performance. The new system, developed at MIT, removes all of the oxygen, so that electrolysis can be efficient at room temperature without electrolyte inputs to remove the hydroxides.

The scientists seem to be confident that this is a game changer, and a breakthrough, though they’re saying it’ll be a decade before it can be fully implemented. Nonetheless, this is a big freakin’ deal, especially if combined with the next wave of cheap renewables. Power storage remains a huge issue, and if this could solve that problem, it would be the second step we need toward a truly renewable future.

If you are interested in this most fantastic news, I suggest you read and listen to the following sources :

3 thoughts on “A new MIT technology to produce hydrogen”

  1. It’s just a change in catalyst, cobalt/phosphorus instead of platinum. It’s like having your car’s body made of aluminium instead of steel, it’s not a fundamental change.

    There still remains the major obstacle of storage of the hydrogen. The second GWAG article I ever wrote was about hydrogen, check it out.

    You also lose heaps of energy as you turn the water into hydrogen and oxygen. To be able to do that, you need a huge supply of electricity. If you have that, you can just use the electricity for static and large transport uses, and regular batteries for .small transport.

    Turning the electricity into hydrogen and then back into electricity again is a needless middle step which wastes lots of energy. The only reason anyone’s interested in it is because they think it’ll let them keep on driving cars burning stuff.

  2. Thanks Kyle for your comment and the additional data… your article is fantastic to explain the issues of hydrogen.

    Glad to see you share my opinion on how hydrogen based solutions are pretty complex…

    In any case, it will be another ten years before this technology works and can be applied to market. Will we still be using cars at that time ? Will our civilizations still be up?

  3. Well, according to these guys we have not ten years but one hundred months…

    I don’t know, I’m sceptical of such a precise figure on such a complex subject. That more CO2 –> more warming –> in the shit, that’s not in doubt. But that (say) 850Gt over ten years will push us past a tipping point while 844Gt will not, that is much more obscure and uncertain.

    I think we should not be using personal cars a decade from now, but I suspect we probably will be still. Perhaps hybrids will rise from 2% to 5% of the total fleet, or perhaps only the upper middle class and up will drive daily. It’s hard to say.

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