MIT Makes Significant Solar Energy Storage Discovery

By Matthew Harwood

The intersection between national security and energy independence has become such a hot topic that President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 last December.  In addition, both presidential hopefuls, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, have devised plans (here and here) to break the United States' reliance on foreign energy. 

Therefore, news out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last week isn't just interesting in terms of what it may mean for the environment and energy, it is also relevant for national security.

MIT Scientists say they have found a way to make solar energy cheap and efficient. Previously, storing solar energy when the sun did not shine was "prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient," said the MIT News Office.

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, [Daniel] Nocera [the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT] and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

Nocera and Kanan's research was published online in the journal Science last Thursday. You can find the abstract here.

James Barber, the Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London, called the Nocera and Kanan's discovery a "giant leap" toward producing clean, carbon-free energy for mass consumption. "This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind."

As Nocera notes, the sun provides enough energy in just one hour to satisfy human needs for one year. He hopes that U.S. consumers will rely on solar energy to power their homes in 10 years.

For more on green innovations and how they relate to security, check out Assistant Editor Laura Spadanuta's July cover, "The Greening of Security."


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