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Power Science

Alloy Could Produce Hydrogen Fuel Using Sunlight 360

Posted by Soulskill
from the panacea-for-the-zeppelin-industry dept.
intellitech writes "Using state-of-the-art theoretical computations, a University of Kentucky-University of Louisville team demonstrated that an alloy formed by a 2 percent substitution of antimony (Sb) in gallium nitride (GaN) has the right electrical properties to enable solar light energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, a process known as photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting. When the alloy is immersed in water and exposed to sunlight, the chemical bond between the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water is broken (abstract). Because pure hydrogen gas is not found in free abundance on Earth, it must be manufactured by unlocking it from other compounds. Thus, hydrogen is not considered an energy source, but rather an 'energy carrier.' Currently, it takes a large amount of electricity to generate hydrogen by water splitting. As a consequence, most of the hydrogen manufactured today is derived from non-renewable sources such as coal and natural gas. The team says the GaN-Sb alloy has the potential to convert solar energy into an economical, carbon-free source for hydrogen."
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Alloy Could Produce Hydrogen Fuel Using Sunlight

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  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:27AM (#37261598)
    Do you care about your fellow man who was born with less privilege than you? Then work hard to make stories like this into a reality so that every poor family can have the access to cheap energy to heat their homes and to power the car in their driveway.

    That's a better story than lowering the standard of living for everyone. I'd rather use technology to raise everyone up, even if it is only to the modest levels that you and I take for granted.
  • Not the answer... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RobinEggs (1453925) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:39AM (#37261674)
    I know we're supposed to love all technological solutions for our energy problems, but I'm just not convinced anymore.

    When I look at how badly most things are managed, at the ignorance and greed that rule the world, I'm quite convinced that properly implementing what we already know could solve more problems than inventing further methods and discovering new things. In everything from energy policy to urban planning to human health we could achieve an almost paradisaical state if we just chose to do those things correctly that we already know how to do correctly and assisted the entire human race in doing the same.

    I'm not advocating cultural imperialism here, I'm just there's plenty of universal ground on which to share with any persons or cultures easily implemented, universally agreeable methods.
  • by currently_awake (1248758) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:41AM (#37261688)
    We've used solar power to split water into hydrogen for decades, what matters is cost. How does this compare with standard solar splitting based on surface area? Do you need a crystalline structure to work? Given that raw silicon is more common and more used I expect it's much cheaper. The article talks about semiconductors so it probably needs a crystal structure (drives up cost), so even with better efficiency (single step vs multi step splitting) it's still probably more costly.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:42AM (#37261694) Homepage Journal

    How many of these are going anywhere years later?

    Most aren't. Some are. That's pretty much the way R&D works: most projects fail, but the ones that succeed change our lives, generally for the better. If you're not interested in hearing about the early stages, when success or failure is impossible to predict, that's fine; no one's making you read those stories.

  • by currently_awake (1248758) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:43AM (#37261702)
    Having solar panels on your roof that can power your stuff -and- refuel your car is a better investment than a solar plant for each.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @12:45AM (#37261714)

    Imagine you're stuck in the desert with a bottle of water... you have to take a pick whether you drink your water or pour it in your car

    Easy answer really. Drink your water and pee on your car.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @01:13AM (#37261822)

    Wow, let me bask in the glow of your self entitlement.

    Social justice means recognizing that all men were not born with equal opportunity. It's a notion which conservatives tend to ignore, but the reality is that a person growing up poor, black and let's say blind is not going to have the same road to prosperity that somebody that's born black and sighted or black, sighted and rich wil.

    Social justice recognizes that anybody can fall on hard times, no matter how careful they are, and that there's dignity in all humans.

    Just because you're lucky enough not to have to worry about such things does not mean that you have any more right to them than anybody else does. I've seen the folks that work janitorial and in kitchens and chances are good that they work harder than you do for less.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:01AM (#37261996) Journal

    Social justice means recognizing that all men were not born with equal opportunity.

    Nope, "social justice" is a propaganda term used to rationalize looting. Justice, or the lack thereof, only pertains to an individual, not to whatever categories you seek to divide people into.

    -jcr

  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao@noSPaM.hotmail.com> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:13AM (#37262022) Homepage

    Nothing quite beats the misery of walking out of a nice, 23 degree mall into the blistering, 37 degree heat in the summer time, only to sit down in your 71 degree car, cursing and swearing at all that damned free energy the sun packed into your car.

    Fixed that for you. Now stop using those damn Fred Flintstone units!

  • Re:Containment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Master Control P (655590) <`moc.kcahsdren' `ta' `reveekje'> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:30AM (#37262082)
    Exactly as much energy as you get back by complete combustion of the octane, divided by the efficiency of the conversion. See 'Fischer-Tropsch' process.

    This is basically what you do if you want oil and you don't want go to Mother Nature's Giant One-Time Only Sale (All coal and oil accumulated over the last 500000000 years is old inventory and must go now! This is a one-time offer, bound to end within 200 years of starting! Don't miss out! Extra discounts available for first 50% of supply, for details please inquire within. No warranty is implied; Buyer takes full responsibility for any mass extinctions, polar meltdowns, or disastrous climactic shifts resulting from use of product. No returns accepted, all sales are final.).
  • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@@@nexusuk...org> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @03:29AM (#37262304) Homepage

    People's rooftops could be used as well. I heard of a program somewhere where they pay you a monthly rate to put energy back into the grid from solar panels placed on your roof. Requires a capital investment, though, which you earn back over the years (20 years IIRC). So unfortunately longer than the majority of people stay in one house.

    There are companies here in the UK that do that (essentially you are renting your roof area to someone for them to put their panels on, and in payment they give you a cut of the money they make). It seems like a good idea to me because most individuals can't afford a long term investment like PV (which costs thousands of pounds and takes 10-20 years to break even). Unfortunately I've also heard that this is incompatible with most mortgages, so until those kind of problems can be fixed it isn't going to be very wide-spread. Here's an idea - how about the mortgage lender offering to shove PV panels on your roof as part-payment for your mortgage?

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." -- Albert Einstein

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