Fuel Cell Boost for ‘Personalized Energy System’

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 @ 06:09 PM gHale


Personalized energy systems where individual small businesses or homes produce their own energy for heating, cooling and powering cars may be here sooner than you think.
That is because a new catalyst could be a key element to an energy system, researchers said.
“Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” said study leader Daniel Nocera, Ph.D., the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy and Professor of Chemistry at MIT.
“We’re working toward development of ‘personalized’ energy units that can be manufactured, distributed and installed inexpensively. There certainly are major obstacles to be overcome — existing fuel cells and solar cells must be improved, for instance. Nevertheless, one can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic system,” he said.
Such a system would consist of rooftop solar energy panels to produce electricity for heating, cooking, lighting, and to charge the batteries on the homeowners’ electric cars.
Surplus electricity would go to an “electrolyzer,” a device that breaks down ordinary water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. You would then be able to store the two components in tanks.
In the dark of night, when the solar panels cease production, the system would shift gears, feeding the stored hydrogen and oxygen into a fuel cell that produces electricity (and clean drinking water as a byproduct).
Such a system would produce clean electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week — even when the sun isn’t shining.



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