EPFL technology may lead to efficient energy storageNovember 13, 2012
EPFL research shows solar and hydrogen-based technology may be the solution to energy storage
Alternative energy is quickly becoming a major focus for many countries around the world. These countries have shown some concern over environmental issues, but are setting their sights on alternative energy for primarily economic reasons. As focus intensifies on alternative energy, issues regarding storage are gaining more attention. Current storage technology is not well suited for the demands of clean energy. As such, researchers all over the world have been working to find ways to efficiently store power, and scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) believe that the solution may involve solar energy and hydrogen fuel.
Inexpensive technology from EPFL can produce clean fuel using solar power
EPFL researchers have been working on finding an efficient way to store alternative energy for several years and have developed a new technology that could turn light energy into clean fuel without producing any harmful emissions. This new technology makes use of water and metal oxides — quite literally rust. EPFL’s Kevin Sivula and his team of researchers claim that this form of energy storage is both inexpensive and easily scalable.
Solar energy used to generate hydrogen gas
Through this process, the research team has been able to store solar energy as hydrogen gas. The system is equipped with a photoelectrochemical solar cell, which was first developed by EPFL in the 1990’s. This energy system harnesses the power of the sun and uses the electricity it generates to commence the chemical breakdown of water. This process produces both oxygen and hydrogen gas, the latter of which can be used by a fuel cell to generate electricity. Researchers consider the hydrogen gas a storage medium for solar energy, suggesting that the gas stores this energy in a potential form rather than as actual electricity.
Technology may be popular in countries interested in hydrogen fuel cells
The hydrogen can be stored in a number of ways, but few are considered efficient in and of themselves. Nonetheless, the technology developed by EPFL can produce hydrogen gas in an efficient manner and at low costs. The technology can be scaled up for larger use by companies and governments around the world and may be particularly popular in Europe where many countries have begun showing an extreme interest in hydrogen fuel cells.