Rust, Water Hold the Key to Storing Solar Energy

Light energy can be turned into hydrogen and stored for later use

By Laura Sinpetru on November 12th, 2012 15:38 GMT

A team of scientists working with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) now claim that they have developed a new technology which makes it possible for solar farms to store the light energy they collect during daytime in the form of hydrogen.

More importantly, the technology they have come up with is anything but expensive, seeing how the two main “ingredients” needed in order to convert sunlight energy into said environmentally friendly fuel are rust and water.

According to the official website for the EPFL, these researchers, who have decided to look into various ways of storing this particular renewable energy source for later use, purposefully chose to use only cheap and easy to come by materials.

It may very well be that the technology these EPFL scientists have developed might have to wait for a while until it hits its heydays, given the fact that the overall efficiency is somewhere around 1.4%-3.6%, yet this does not change the fact that a major breakthrough has been made nonetheless.

“The most expensive material in our device is the glass plate. With our less expensive concept based on iron oxide, we hope to be able to attain efficiencies of 10% in a few years, for less than $80 (€62.9) per square meter,” specialist Kevin Sivula explains.

Furthermore, “At that price, we'll be competitive with traditional methods of hydrogen production.”

Although this was not the first time when a team of scientists decided to look into the possibility of storing sunlight energy in the form of hydrogen, this was the first time went somebody decided to find a way of doing so using only cheap and run-off-the-mill materials.

A detailed analysis of this new method of using rust and water in order to turn sunlight energy into hydrogen was published in the journal Nature Photonics.

The technology is still in its early days, yet the people who developed it hope that more breakthroughs will soon follow.

Down below you have a video showing David Sivula explain the working principles behind this new technology.

New technology uses rust and water to turn sunlight energy into hydrogen
   New technology uses rust and water to turn sunlight energy into hydrogen
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