An MIT professor has discovered a way to use solar energy to power fuel cells, potentially creating a significant increase in the efficiency of solar power, according to an article published in the July 31, 2008 edition of the journal Science.
"If you can only have energy when the sun is shining, you're in deep trouble. And that's why, in my opinion, photovoltaics haven't penetrated the market," Daniel Nocera, an MIT professor of energy, said in an interview at his Cambridge, Massachusetts, office. "If I could provide a storage mechanism, then I make energy 24/7 and then we can start talking about solar."
The new process uses a catalyst to produce the oxygen and hydrogen that fuel cells use to generate electricity, while using far less energy than current methods.
With this catalyst, users could rely on electricity produced by photovoltaic solar cells to power the process that produces the fuel, said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who developed the new material.