Sunday, August 3, 2008

Scientists Mimic Plants' Photosynthesis Energy Production & Storage System

ScienceDaily (Aug. 1, 2008) — In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine. Excerpts from the ScienceDaily Article:

"Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today's announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow sun light to be converted to energy for immediate use and also stored for later use.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas.

Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world's energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.

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."

When electricity — whether generated from a photovoltaic cell, thin-film photovoltaic plastic sheets, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the catalyst treated electrodes, water is very efficiently split into oxygen and hydrogen gases. It is the hydrogen gas created in this process that can be stored for use in future home energy systems or the hydrogen can be fed into hydrogen powered cars already in production today. That could mean no more $4++ per gallon gas fill ups at the local Exxon Station - rather you could fill up your hydrogen powered car for free with the sun, rather than Exxon, as your energy provider.

Read the full ScienceDaily article here

U.S. Senate Candidate for Texas Rick Noriega supports the development of alternative energy sources such as this. Noriega's opponent, Texas' incumbent Senator John Cornyn, dismisses such alternative energy research and development as "unrealistic" and "against mainstream solutions" such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and off shore drilling -- both advocated by Senator Cornyn as priorities over alternative energy development.

It must also be noted that, like Rick Noriega, Collin County U.S. Congressional Democratic candidates Tom Daley, Candidate for the U.S. 3rd Texas Congressional District against Republican incumbent Sam Johnson and Glenn Melan├žon - Candidate for the U.S. 4th Texas Congressional District against Republican incumbent Ralph Hall also support alternative energy technology development. Both Sam Johnson and Ralph Hall favor the energy positions held by incumbent Senator John Cornyn -- drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and off shore drilling for carbon fossil crude oil as priorities over alternative energy development.

Experts agree that arctic and off-shore drilling would not add significantly oil flow to refineries and it would not cool gas prices at the pump. In 10 years time arctic drilling might drop crude oil prices as much as $0.75 per barrel of crude oil.

That's not to say that continued careful drilling using modern drilling technologies is necessarily a bad idea. Millions of acres of oil and gas leases in the lower 48 states sit undrilled and untapped.

Why are John McCain and other Republicans so urgently trying force the issue of arctic and off-shore drilling when so many acres of oil and gas leases sit untapped in the lower 48 states. Could it be diversionary election year politics? Or, is it something else? Multiple oil company executives did give huge contributions to Senator McCain's campaign just days after his offshore drilling change of heart. (Until very recently Senator McCain was against offshore drilling.)

Even if all the oil wells possible were being drilled today, no one should get the idea that would reduce America's dependence on foreign oil imports or reduce the price we all pay at the pump for a gallon of gasoline. Only significant investments in the development of domestically produced alternative energy technologies will significantly reduce America's dependence on foreign oil imports, improve America's national security and reduce the price we all pay for every form of energy.

All of the Republican candidates, that will appear on the Collin County Voters' ballot this fall, support continuing tax breaks to big Oil and Coal companies for projects such as Arctic and Off-Shore drilling. (read Big Oil's biggest quarter ever: $51.5B in all) These tax subsidies bleed money away from American tax payers and the Texas economy and simple add to big oil profits.

Alternative energy development, particularly like west Texas wind power generation, is already pulling much needed jobs and money back into the Texas economy. Technologies such as developed by MIT can rapidly accelerate solar and wind power investment and development in Texas. After all, anyone who has lived in Texas for very long knows well that the most abundant resources to be found in Texas are wind and sun!!!

Why aren't the Republican candidates John McCain, John Cornyn, Sam Johnson and Ralph Hall supporting alternative energy development when it can be so good for the Texas economy?

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