The scientific community is all about boosting solar cell efficiency, producing hydrogen by splitting the water molecule, and improving energy storage capacity these days. No hour goes by without a new publication in one of these fields, bringing new hope for greener and better future.
A team of researchers from Prude University, however, developed a model, which statistically proves that no matter how hard scientists try to make groundbreaking improvements in each one of these fields individually, combining all technologies into one would be the ideal solution.
In their paper just published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, chemical engineering doctoral student Emre Gençer and his team, present the concept of “Hydricity“. Here, concentrated solar power and hydrogen production and storage are combined to form the perfect synergy within an advanced energy storage system.
Hydricity essentially comprises of solar concentrators, as well as steam turbines and reactors. During the day, the solar concentrators direct the sunrays to superheat water to 1300 degrees Celsius. This generates hot steam, which is used to operate both the steam turbines, and the reactors. The turbines generate electricity, while the reactors split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
At night, the produced hydrogen is used to superheat water and keep the turbines going until the concentrators start to work again at daylight. Any extra hydrogen can be used for other applications, such as powering hydrogen cars, or being mixed with carbon from agriculture to make fertilizer and fuel.
In terms of efficiency, Hydricity ticks all the boxes. Over a 24-hour cycle, the efficincy of solar conversion is about 35%, which is right up there with the best PV cells. But that is not all. The system is much more efficient when it comes to energy storage, for two reasons. Firstly, the system does not deteriorate with charge-discharge cycles. And secondly, because the produced hydrogen can be used in many other industries.
Hydricity is currently just a conceptual model, which has only been tested with simulated data. It does not have an experimental component, but it demonstrates an alternative and much more advanced solar power storage.
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