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RE: [hreg] 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

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  • Robert Johnston
    I should add that since it appeared in Science with a splash, there must be a big deal, I just don t get it. Anybody else have a clue? (I can t access
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 1 1:49 PM
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      I should add that since it appeared in Science with a splash, there must be a big deal, I just don’t get it.  Anybody else have a clue?  (I can’t access Science online).


      Robert

       

      From: hreg@yahoogroups.com [mailto:hreg@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Robert Johnston
      Sent: Friday, August 01, 2008 3:37 PM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [hreg] 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

       

      Interesting, but I don’t get it.  This is simple electrolysis—same thing you did in high school chemistry lab.  Maybe there is less fouling of the electrodes or something, but it isn’t clear from the article what the big advantage is.  pH neutrality may allow it to better simulate photosynthesis, but who cares?  We don’t have to simulate photosynthesis conditions in the hydrogen generation part of the cycle.  In any case, seems to me the biggest bottleneck is generating the electricity, not generating hydrogen (though that is one candidate method for energy storage).  Guess I’ll have to hear more about this to see what the big deal is.


      Robert

       

       

    • Philip Timmons
      Sure, I think I can explain it . . . It is research funding time, so we need to publish . . . . WE ARE DOING GREAT THINGS (tm) aka, Plea$e $end more re$earch
      Message 2 of 8 , Aug 1 2:39 PM
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        Sure, I think I can explain it . . .

        It is research funding time, so we need to publish . . . .

        WE ARE DOING GREAT THINGS (tm)

        aka, Plea$e $end more re$earch money.

        Overall, you are correct.  Storage of PV produced electricity is not the problem with PV.  The cost of the PV on the front end is.  But it is much easier to solve make believe problems with make believe solutions.

        Have we reached Peak BS, yet?  I am still waiting for my 200 mpg carb from the last go 'round.





        --- On Fri, 8/1/08, Robert Johnston <junk1@...> wrote:
        From: Robert Johnston <junk1@...>
        Subject: RE: [hreg] 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution
        To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Friday, August 1, 2008, 3:49 PM

        I should add that since it appeared in Science with a splash, there must be a big deal, I just don’t get it.  Anybody else have a clue?  (I can’t access Science online).


        Robert

         

        From: hreg@yahoogroups. com [mailto:hreg@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Robert Johnston
        Sent: Friday, August 01, 2008 3:37 PM
        To: hreg@yahoogroups. com
        Subject: RE: [hreg] 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

         

        Interesting, but I don’t get it.  This is simple electrolysis—same thing you did in high school chemistry lab.  Maybe there is less fouling of the electrodes or something, but it isn’t clear from the article what the big advantage is.  pH neutrality may allow it to better simulate photosynthesis, but who cares?  We don’t have to simulate photosynthesis conditions in the hydrogen generation part of the cycle.  In any case, seems to me the biggest bottleneck is generating the electricity, not generating hydrogen (though that is one candidate method for energy storage).  Guess I’ll have to hear more about this to see what the big deal is.


        Robert

         

         


      • Jay Ring
        Do I detect a note of sarcasm? Are you kidding? This baby is off the charts! I could be completely wrong about this, but the use of a cobalt based catalyst is
        Message 3 of 8 , Aug 1 2:59 PM
        • 0 Attachment
          Do I detect a note of sarcasm?
          Are you kidding? This baby is off the charts!

          I could be completely wrong about this, but the use of a cobalt based
          catalyst is a pretty good development, yes? Combined with the Polymer
          Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell, that pretty much gets platinum
          completely out of the picture.

          Still I always thought the hardest problem would be storing it. You
          either have to put it in a low pressure tank or use cryogenics, either
          was is expensive and both require a compressor and you lose a lot of
          efficiency, never mind having to store explosive gas.

          I think storage is going to be a much bigger problem and until that is
          solved I don't see how it is going to be practical.

          Have a good one guys!



          --- In hreg@yahoogroups.com, Philip Timmons <philiptimmons@...> wrote:
          >
          > Sure, I think I can explain it . . .
          >
          > It is research funding time, so we need to publish . . . .
          >
          > WE ARE DOING GREAT THINGS (tm)
          >
          > aka, Plea$e $end more re$earch money.
          >
          > Overall, you are correct.  Storage of PV produced electricity is not
          the problem with PV.  The cost of the PV on the front end is.  But it
          is much easier to solve make believe problems with make believe solutions.
          >
          > Have we reached Peak BS, yet?  I am still waiting for my 200 mpg
          carb from the last go 'round.
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > --- On Fri, 8/1/08, Robert Johnston <junk1@...> wrote:
          > From: Robert Johnston <junk1@...>
          > Subject: RE: [hreg] 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash
          solar revolution
          > To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
          > Date: Friday, August 1, 2008, 3:49 PM
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > I should add that since it appeared in Science with a splash,
          > there must be a big deal, I just don't get it.  Anybody else have a
          clue?  (I
          > can't access Science online).
          >
          >
          >
          > Robert
          >
          >  
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > From:
          > hreg@yahoogroups. com [mailto:hreg@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of
          Robert
          > Johnston
          >
          > Sent: Friday, August 01, 2008 3:37 PM
          >
          > To: hreg@yahoogroups. com
          >
          > Subject: RE: [hreg] 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar
          > revolution
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >  
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > Interesting, but I don't get it. 
          > This is simple electrolysis—same thing you did in high school chemistry
          > lab.  Maybe there is less fouling of the electrodes or something, but it
          > isn't clear from the article what the big advantage is.  pH
          neutrality may
          > allow it to better simulate photosynthesis, but who cares?  We don't
          have
          > to simulate photosynthesis conditions in the hydrogen generation
          part of the
          > cycle.  In any case, seems to me the biggest bottleneck is
          generating the
          > electricity, not generating hydrogen (though that is one candidate
          method for
          > energy storage).  Guess I'll have to hear more about this to see
          what the
          > big deal is.
          >
          >
          >
          > Robert
          >
          >  
          >
          >  
          >
        • phil6142@aol.com
          Most PEM fuel Cells still use some platinum on the electrodes so it is not completely out of the picture.  Plus the article says they are just using cobalt
          Message 4 of 8 , Aug 3 1:40 PM
          • 0 Attachment
            Most PEM fuel Cells still use some platinum on the electrodes so it is not completely out of the picture.  Plus the article says they are just using cobalt for the oxygen electrode.  The electrode they are using for hydrogen is platinum.  There are much cheaper ways of doing electrolysis but acedemia in general is not good at cost reduction pieces of development.  That is what needs to be done in industry.  Perhaps this new method is super high effiency and that will help but it will take some corporation to take this technology development and run with it in order to get costs down.  You can get close to 90% effiency with just nickel electrodes if you maintain the proper electrolyte solution so there isn't that much room to improve there and none of that has anything to do with solar power it could be used on any type of electricity (i.e. wind, hydro, coal) I think they are just making big statements about solar to get a "renewable energy" publication and try for some funding.

            Phillip


            -----Original Message-----
            From: Jay Ring <txses@...>
            To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Fri, 1 Aug 2008 4:59 pm
            Subject: [hreg] Re: 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

            Do I detect a note of sarcasm?
            Are you kidding? This baby is off the charts!

            I could be completely wrong about this, but the use of a cobalt based
            catalyst is a pretty good development, yes? Combined with the Polymer
            Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell, that pretty much gets platinum
            completely out of the picture.

            Still I always thought the hardest problem would be storing it. You
            either have to put it in a low pressure tank or use cryogenics, either
            was is expensive and both require a compressor and you lose a lot of
            efficiency, never mind having to store explosive gas.

            I think storage is going to be a much bigger problem and until that is
            solved I don't see how it is going to be practical.

            Have a good one guys!

            --- In hreg@yahoogroups. com, Philip Timmons <philiptimmons@ ...> wrote:
            >
            > Sure, I think I can explain it . . .
            >
            > It is research funding time, so we need to publish . . . .
            >
            > WE ARE DOING GREAT THINGS (tm)
            >
            > aka, Plea$e $end more re$earch money.
            >
            > Overall, you are correct.  Storage of PV produced electricity is not
            the problem with PV.  The cost of the PV on the front end is.  But it
            is much easier to solve make believe problems with make believe solutions.
            >
            > Have we reached Peak BS, yet?  ; I am still waiting for my 200 mpg
            carb from the last go 'round.
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > --- On Fri, 8/1/08, Robert Johnston <junk1@...> wrote:
            > From: Robert Johnston <junk1@...>
            > Subject: RE: [hreg] 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash
            solar revolution
            > To: hreg@yahoogroups. com
            > Date: Friday, August 1, 2008, 3:49 PM
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > I should add that since it appeared in Science with a splash,
            > there must be a big deal, I just don't get it.  Anybody else have a
            clue?  (I
            > can't access Science online).
            >
            >
            >
            > Robert
            >
            >  
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > From:
            > hreg@yahoogroups. com [mailto:hreg@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of
            Robert
            > Johnston
            >
            > Sent: Friday, August 01, 2008 3:37 PM
            >
            > To: hreg@yahoogroups. com
            >
            > Subject: RE: [hreg] 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar
            > revolution
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >  
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > Interesting, but I don't get i t. 
            > This is simple electrolysis— same thing you did in high school chemistry
            > lab.  Maybe there is less fouling of the electrodes or something, but it
            > isn't clear from the article what the big advantage is.  pH
            neutrality may
            > allow it to better simulate photosynthesis, but who cares?  We don't
            have
            > to simulate photosynthesis conditions in the hydrogen generation
            part of the
            > cycle.  In any case, seems to me the biggest bottleneck is
            generating the
            > electricity, not generating hydrogen (though that is one candidate
            method for
            > energy storage).  Guess I'll have to hear more about this to see
            what the
            > big deal is.
            >
            >
            >
            > Robert
            >
            >  
            >
            >  
            >

          • Ariel T.
            Here s the full text of the on-line report in Science . I also have the PDF from the magazine but know better than attaching it to a Yahoo thing. If anybody
            Message 5 of 8 , Aug 3 9:26 PM
            • 0 Attachment
              Here's the full text of the on-line report in 'Science'. I also have the PDF from the magazine but know better than attaching it to a Yahoo thing. If anybody wants it, let me know.  There are two other vaguely related articles in the same issue.

              - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

              Science 1 August 2008:
              Vol. 321. no. 5889, p. 620
              DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5889.620

               

               


              Prev | Table of Contents | Next

               

               


              News of the Week

               

               

              CHEMISTRY:
              New Catalyst Marks Major Step in the March Toward Hydrogen Fuel

               

               

              Robert F. Service

               

               

              Climate change concerns, high gas prices, and a good deal of international friction would fade if scientists could learn a trick every houseplant knows: how to absorb sunlight and store its energy in chemical bonds. What's needed are catalysts capable of taking electricity and using it to split water to generate hydrogen gas, a clean fuel. Unfortunately, the catalysts discovered so far work under harsh chemical conditions, and the best ones are made from platinum, a rare and expensive metal.

               

               

              No more. This week, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge led by chemist Daniel Nocera report online in Science a new water-splitting catalyst that works under environmentally friendly conditions (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1162018). More important, it's made from cobalt and phosphorus, fairly cheap and abundant elements. The new catalyst needs improvements before it can solve the world's energy problems, but several outside researchers say it's a crucial development.

               

               

              "This is a great result," says John Turner, an electrochemist and water-splitting expert at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Thomas Moore, a chemist at Arizona State University in Tempe, goes further. "It's a big-to-giant step" in the direction of powering industrial societies with renewable fuels, he says. "I'd say it's a breakthrough." Meanwhile, on pages 671 and 676, other groups report related advances--a cheap plastic fuel cell catalyst that converts hydrogen to electricity, and a solid oxide fuel cell catalyst that operates at lower temperatures--that affect another vital component of any future solar hydrogen system.

               

               

              English chemists first used electricity to split water more than 200 years ago. The reaction requires two separate catalytic steps. The first, the positively charged electrode, or anode, swipes electrons from hydrogen atoms in water molecules. The result is that protons (hydrogen atoms minus their electrons) break away from their oxygen atoms. The anode catalyst then grabs two oxygen atoms and welds them together to make O2. Meanwhile, the free protons drift through the solution to the negatively charged electrode, or cathode, where they hook up with electrons to make molecular hydrogen (H2).

              The hard part is finding catalysts that can orchestrate this dance of electrons and protons. The anode, which links oxygens together, has been a particularly difficult challenge. Platinum works but is too expensive and rare to be viable on an industrial scale. "If we are going to use solar energy in a direct conversion process, we need to cover large areas," Turner says. "That makes a low-cost catalyst a must." Other metals and metal oxides can do the job but not at a neutral pH--another key to keeping costs down. In 2004, Nocera's team reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society a cobalt-based catalyst that did the reverse reaction, catalyzing the production of water from O2, protons, and electrons. "That told us cobalt could manage multielectron and proton-coupled reactions," Nocera says.

               

               

              Unfortunately, cobalt is useless as a standalone water-splitting anode because it dissolves in water. Nocera and his Ph.D. student Matthew Kanan knew they couldn't get over this hurdle. So they went around it instead. For their anode, they started with a stable electrode material known as indium tin oxide (ITO). They then placed their anode in a beaker of water, which they spiked with cobalt (Co2+) and potassium phosphate. When they flipped on the current, this created a positive charge in the ITO. Kanan and Nocera believe this initially pulls electrons from the Co2+, turning it first to Co3+, which pairs up with negatively charged phosphate ions and precipitates out of solution, forming a film of rocklike cobalt phosphate atop the ITO. Another electron is yanked from the Co3+ in the film to make Co4+, although the mechanism has not yet been nailed down. The film forms the critical water-splitting catalyst. As it does so, it swipes electrons from hydrogen atoms in water and then grabs hold of lone oxygen atoms and welds them together. In the process, the Co4+ returns to Co2+ and again dissolves into the water, and the cycle is repeated.

               

               

              The catalyst isn't perfect. It still requires excess electricity to start the water-splitting reaction, energy that isn't recovered and stored in the fuel. And for now, the catalyst can accept only low levels of electrical current. Nocera says he's hopeful that both problems can be solved, and because the catalysts are so easy to make, he expects progress will be swift. Further work is also needed to reduce the cost of cathodes and to link the electrodes to solar cells to provide clean electricity. A final big push will be to see if the catalyst or others like it can operate in seawater. If so, future societies could use sunlight to generate hydrogen from seawater and then pipe it to large banks of fuel cells on shore that could convert it into electricity and fresh water, thereby using the sun and oceans to fill two of the world's greatest needs. 

              - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
              Ariel
              - We are all Human beings here together. We have to help one another, since otherwise there is NO ONE who will help.
              - All countries need NO REGRETS strategic policies regarding every non-renewable resource, including water.
              - Plan ahead seven generations -- reduce all your consumption, and eliminate waste.

              - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


            • Robert Johnston
              Thanks. Confirms suspicions. I guess a major breakthrough depends on whether you ve been drinking the hydrogen economy Kool-Aid or not. I think many
              Message 6 of 8 , Aug 4 5:01 AM
              • 0 Attachment

                Thanks.  Confirms suspicions.  I guess a “major breakthrough” depends on whether you’ve been drinking the hydrogen economy Kool-Aid or not.  I think many thinkers have been moving away from that idea.  Plus, it sounds like they have a lot of work left on this idea.  We’ll see…


                Robert

                 

                From: hreg@yahoogroups.com [mailto:hreg@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ariel T.
                Sent: Sunday, August 03, 2008 11:26 PM
                To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: [hreg] Re: 'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution

                 

                Here's the full text of the on-line report in 'Science'. I also have the PDF from the magazine but know better than attaching it to a Yahoo thing. If anybody wants it, let me know.  There are two other vaguely related articles in the same issue.

                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                 

                Science 1 August 2008:
                Vol. 321. no. 5889, p. 620
                DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5889.620

                 

                 

                 

                Prev | Table of Contents | Next

                 

                 

                 

                News of the Week

                 

                 

                CHEMISTRY:
                New Catalyst Marks Major Step in the March Toward Hydrogen Fuel

                 

                 

                Robert F. Service

                 

                 

                Climate change concerns, high gas prices, and a good deal of international friction would fade if scientists could learn a trick every houseplant knows: how to absorb sunlight and store its energy in chemical bonds. What's needed are catalysts capable of taking electricity and using it to split water to generate hydrogen gas, a clean fuel. Unfortunately, the catalysts discovered so far work under harsh chemical conditions, and the best ones are made from platinum, a rare and expensive metal.

                 

                 

                No more. This week, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge led by chemist Daniel Nocera report online in Science a new water-splitting catalyst that works under environmentally friendly conditions (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1162018). More important, it's made from cobalt and phosphorus, fairly cheap and abundant elements. The new catalyst needs improvements before it can solve the world's energy problems, but several outside researchers say it's a crucial development.

                 

                 

                "This is a great result," says John Turner, an electrochemist and water-splitting expert at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Thomas Moore, a chemist at Arizona State University in Tempe, goes further. "It's a big-to-giant step" in the direction of powering industrial societies with renewable fuels, he says. "I'd say it's a breakthrough." Meanwhile, on pages 671 and 676, other groups report related advances--a cheap plastic fuel cell catalyst that converts hydrogen to electricity, and a solid oxide fuel cell catalyst that operates at lower temperatures--that affect another vital component of any future solar hydrogen system.

                 

                 

                English chemists first used electricity to split water more than 200 years ago. The reaction requires two separate catalytic steps. The first, the positively charged electrode, or anode, swipes electrons from hydrogen atoms in water molecules. The result is that protons (hydrogen atoms minus their electrons) break away from their oxygen atoms. The anode catalyst then grabs two oxygen atoms and welds them together to make O2. Meanwhile, the free protons drift through the solution to the negatively charged electrode, or cathode, where they hook up with electrons to make molecular hydrogen (H2).

                The hard part is finding catalysts that can orchestrate this dance of electrons and protons. The anode, which links oxygens together, has been a particularly difficult challenge. Platinum works but is too expensive and rare to be viable on an industrial scale. "If we are going to use solar energy in a direct conversion process, we need to cover large areas," Turner says. "That makes a low-cost catalyst a must." Other metals and metal oxides can do the job but not at a neutral pH--another key to keeping costs down. In 2004, Nocera's team reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society a cobalt-based catalyst that did the reverse reaction, catalyzing the production of water from O2, protons, and electrons. "That told us cobalt could manage multielectron and proton-coupled reactions," Nocera says.

                 

                 

                Unfortunately, cobalt is useless as a standalone water-splitting anode because it dissolves in water. Nocera and his Ph.D. student Matthew Kanan knew they couldn't get over this hurdle. So they went around it instead. For their anode, they started with a stable electrode material known as indium tin oxide (ITO). They then placed their anode in a beaker of water, which they spiked with cobalt (Co2+) and potassium phosphate. When they flipped on the current, this created a positive charge in the ITO. Kanan and Nocera believe this initially pulls electrons from the Co2+, turning it first to Co3+, which pairs up with negatively charged phosphate ions and precipitates out of solution, forming a film of rocklike cobalt phosphate atop the ITO. Another electron is yanked from the Co3+ in the film to make Co4+, although the mechanism has not yet been nailed down. The film forms the critical water-splitting catalyst. As it does so, it swipes electrons from hydrogen atoms in water and then grabs hold of lone oxygen atoms and welds them together. In the process, the Co4+ returns to Co2+ and again dissolves into the water, and the cycle is repeated.

                 

                 

                The catalyst isn't perfect. It still requires excess electricity to start the water-splitting reaction, energy that isn't recovered and stored in the fuel. And for now, the catalyst can accept only low levels of electrical current. Nocera says he's hopeful that both problems can be solved, and because the catalysts are so easy to make, he expects progress will be swift. Further work is also needed to reduce the cost of cathodes and to link the electrodes to solar cells to provide clean electricity. A final big push will be to see if the catalyst or others like it can operate in seawater. If so, future societies could use sunlight to generate hydrogen from seawater and then pipe it to large banks of fuel cells on shore that could convert it into electricity and fresh water, thereby using the sun and oceans to fill two of the world's greatest needs. 

                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                Ariel
                - We are all Human beings here together. We have to help one another, since otherwise there is NO ONE who will help.
                - All countries need NO REGRETS strategic policies regarding every non-renewable resource, including water.
                - Plan ahead seven generations -- reduce all your consumption, and eliminate waste.

                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


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