Storing the Sun’s Energy

Guest_Jim_* - October 5, 2011 10:10AM in Science & Technology

An almost unbelievable amount of energy falls on the Earth from the Sun every day, and many people want to take advantage of it with photovoltaics. Not everything can use solar panels for power though, such as airplanes and heavy trucks. Such machines require other kinds of fuel, and currently these are fossil fuels. Researchers have been working to bring solar power into fossil fuels, by using sunlight to power the systems to make liquid fuels, such as gasoline. From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes an artificial leaf. When placed in water, sunlight will be used to break water molecules into molecular hydrogen and oxygen, which can be stored for burned for energy at another place and another time. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has found a catalyst for converting carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, the first part to manufacturing a hydrocarbon. Unfortunately both systems are inefficient and slow at this time, but research will continue to bridge the gap between renewable and fossil fuels.