How much power is in a bottle of water?
The answer will surprise
One of the interesting side effects
of last year's stimulus bill was $400 million in funding for ARPA-E,
the civilian, energy-focused cousin of DARPA. And in this week's first
ever ARPA-E conference,
MIT chemist Dan Nocera showed how well he put that stimulus money to
use by highlighting his new
photosynthetic process. Using a special catalyst, the process splits
water into oxygen and hydrogen fuel
efficiently enough to power a home
using only sunlight and a bottle of water.
Like organic photosynthesis, Nocera's reaction uses sunlight to convert
carbon dioxide and water into
oxygen and energy. However, whereas plants create energy in the form of
sugars, this process creates
energy in the form of free hydrogen. That hydrogen can either be
recombined with the oxygen in a
fuel cell to generate electricity, or converted into a liquid fuel.
In about four hours, water treated with Nocera's catalyst can produce
30 kilowatt-hours of energy.
Moreover, the process is cheap. So cheap, in fact, that Nocera has no
problem envisioning a day
when each house generates its own fuel and electricity from
But don't take my word for it. Check out this video and hear Nocera
describe this process himself:
I don't mean to be a pessimist, but I'm old and I've seen
HUNDREDS of announcements like this
and I always think, "Gee, in a few
years this will happen" but it never, ever does.
Instead of giving some damn speech about this artificial
photosynthesis, why not power a home
and then show a video of THAT instead of some damn speech?
The dude says he's been working on this for 25 years.
Odds are he'll continue working on it for another 25 years and I'll never
get to see it.
A year or two ago, 60
Minutes did a story on some new fuel cell that was currently
electricity for Google and Yahoo. It was the size of a refrigerator and
it they said it was saving
Google and Yahoo about a million dollars a month in energy costs - but where the hell is it?
America - we talk a good game but we never
deliver - ever.
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