Ratan Tata and Daniel Nocera

MIT professor Daniel Nocera, the inventor of a type of electrolysis that mimics the plants photosynthesis, and Ratan Tata, the CEO of the Indian Tata group, have signed a funding agreement allowing the Tata group to commercialize Nocera’s invention which produces power from water.

Tata signed the agreement that should be able to guarantee the building of a small power plant the size of a refrigerator in about a year and a half. Although the research is still at its beginnings, Nocera and Tata’s plan is based on what’s been realized so far.

Nocera says that, when completed, the device will be able to power a home by only using a bottle of water. He estimates that the world’s current electricity need stretches to 14 terrawatts, with the perspective of increasing to 16 TW by 2050. He also states that we will be able to supply all of the world’s needs by only using a pool of water a day.

Although it sounds impossible, there have been entire generations of scientists that, since the beginning of the 20th century dreamed to split up water in an energy-efficient manner, and use any kind of water for that matter. Nocera finalized his first satisfactory-working “artificial leaf” about a month and a half ago, coated with a proprietary solution of cobalt and phosphate, into a jar of water and coaxed to generate power at efficiencies that now exceed solar panels.

Further technical details of the invention have, of course, not been revealed yet, because of the contract between Nocera’s Sun Catalytix and the Tata group. Still, if the contract yields satisfactory results, all of the years that Daniel Nocera spent studying how to make artificial leaves, Tata and all of the humanity will be in a win-win situation.

By using solar power, we will be able to generate hydrogen from water to power our cars and our most energy-intensive industries that nowadays pollute the most. We’ve been watching Nocera and news about his inventions for a long time, and this is the best one yet.

[via ecofriend]

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Most Hydrogen On Demand systems (which don’t use this catalytic method as yet) I’ve read about get around the storage leakage issue by not storing it. The hydrogen is made only on demand, at the point of application, and not stored at all. I don’t know how the system in the article relates to that idea, but from what I’ve read lots of people are using simple to design and install partial water systems that, used supplementally, boost mileage. 100% water systems are more rare but can be obtained.

    I’m not sure how converting to methane closes the carbon loop. When methane is burned, doesn’t the carbon get released to the atmosphere all over again?

  2. Although this has huge impications for static facilities (houses, factories, etc), it is less applicable for vehicles. The Hydrogen atom migrates quite easily thtough connections that are impervious to larger molecular structures. Also, there are issues with storage (pressure and / or temperature, as well as the fact the energy of combustion of hydrogen is quite low.

    There is another option. With Carbon Capture at large faciities, the Carbon Dioxide could be combined with Hydrogen in a Saratierr process reactor (an exothermic catalytic reaction) to form methane. We already have massive infrastructure in place to moveand store this. We also have proven mechanisms for converting gosline engines to methane. The most important thing here is CLOSING THE CARBON LOOP as quickly as possible. If we wait until fuel cells are affordable, and we build the infrastructure to move Hydrogen efficientl, it will take years. This could be done very quickly, all with existing, proven technologies.

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