Green News: MIT Researchers Make ‘Major Discovery’ That Could Lead to Practical Solar Energy Alternatives

solar panels on roof 300x213 Green News: MIT Researchers Make ‘Major Discovery’ That Could Lead to Practical Solar Energy AlternativesMIT Researchers have announced a major discovery that could make solar energy a practical and cost-effective alternative in the near future. The discovery overcomes one of the major hurdles in the quest for practical solar energy alternatives: storing and using energy when the sun is not shining!

The idea the MIT researchers came up with is “inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants” – using the sun’s energy during the day to split water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules that can be used later by a fuel cell to create carbon-free electricity for a house.

Here’s a quote from the MIT website (or click this link to go to 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 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.


This sounds very promising – though still way too early to make any formal predictions.  There seems to be alot to consider, not the least of which is the cost to implement and maintain.  I’m sure the energy companies are not thrilled about the prospect of each household having their own “mini power-plants”!

I’m curious what everyone thinks about this, so please drop a comment my way letting me know what you think!