Researchers develop a supersonic solar fuel cellMarch 6, 2015
Research team develops a new type of fuel cell that collects solar energy
A team of researchers from Sweden’s Lund University is currently developing what they refer to as a “supersonic solar fuel cell.” This fuel cell is meant to mimic the photosynthetic process, deriving electrical power from the sun to produce hydrogen fuel, which is then consumed to produce electricity. Currently, much of the world’s supply of hydrogen fuel is produced through the consumption of natural gas, which is a type of fossil-fuel. This makes hydrogen somewhat environmentally hazardous to use.
Solar fuel cell is capable of mimicking photosynthesis
The research team from Lund University has taken a strong interest in artificial photosynthesis. Researchers have derived inspiration from the natural process, as well as other efforts to mimic this process from research teams around the world. Mimicking photosynthesis could be a useful way to produce hydrogen fuel or generate clean energy in general. Efforts to reproduce this process have been slow moving, however, as nature can be quite difficult to mimic accurately.
Special molecule can store solar energy as chemical power
A solar fuel cell would collect solar energy and store it as chemical power within molecules. Researchers are using a specially designed molecule that has two metal atoms at its center. This molecule is capable of collecting sunlight with one of its metal atoms, while the other atom acts as a sort of catalyst that can be found in conventional fuel cells. The current prototype of this solar fuel cell produces methane rather than hydrogen. Future models are likely to produce hydrogen fuel, however.
New fuel cell has supersonic qualities
One of the fascinating qualities of the solar fuel cell is its “supersonic” capabilities. According to studies that the research team has conducted, the electrons produced within the special molecule they use can travel between the molecules atoms in half a picosecond. This is roughly 10 times the speed of sound. The research team has found that they can manipulate the speed at which these electrons travel between the molecule’s atoms, as well.