One of the drawbacks of solar cells is that they only work when the sun is shining, and current methods to store the power produced by the cells for non-sunny periods are extremely expensive and very inefficient. Now, MIT researchers are claiming a breakthrough in power storage that will allow for inexpensive and efficient method for storing solar energy.
The researchers, led by MIT’s Daniel Nocera and Matthew Kanan, have come up with a process that efficiently splits water into hydrogen and oxygen gas which can be stored for use in a fuel cell. A house using this system would use the solar cells for power generation during the day and then would use the fuel cell at night. The MIT process uses a newly developed catalyst consisting of cobalt metal and produce the oxygen. Other catalysts, such as platinum, produces the hydrogen. According to Nocera, the new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and is very easy to setup.
“James Barber, a leader in the study of photosynthesis who was not involved in this research, called the discovery by Nocera and Kanan a “giant leap” toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale.”