Researchers in New Jersey make a clean technology breakthrough

July 10, 2014 0 By Stephen Vagus

clean technology research

Clean technology project taps into the power of photosynthesis

Researchers from Princeton University have been working with Liquid Light, a technology startup based in New Jersey, and have made a major breakthrough in fuel cell technology. Through a collaborative effort, the research team has been able to transform a combination of water and carbon dioxide into formic acid using a fuel cell powered by solar energy. The solar power used for this project was provided by Public Service Electric and Gas of New Jersey.

Solar powered fuel cell is able to convert carbon dioxide and water into formic acid

The research team designed the fuel cell they used from locally-sourced parts, ensuring that it is somewhat inexpensive. They equipped the fuel cell with one of Public Service Electric and Gas’ solar panels and achieved an energy generation balance through impedance matching, meaning that the solar panel could not produce more electrical power than the fuel cell could handle at any given time. This allowed the energy system to achieve an energy efficiency of 2%.

Project represents another accomplishment in artificial photosynthesis

The system is able to generate electrical power through artificial photosynthesis, deriving energy from sunlight and using this electricity to power the electrochemical processes of the fuel cell. These processes are able to convert carbon dioxide and water into formic acid. This acid is often used in preservatives and antibiotics for livestock, but it does have some promising potential in terms of energy storage, especially when used with fuel cells.

Formic acid may be the most promising hydrogen storage material that could help resolve the storage problems of hydrogen fuel

Formic acid is currently considered to be one of the most promising storage materials for hydrogen fuel. It is more stable that some other storage materials and the byproduct of its decomposition is carbon dioxide, which can be used to produce more formic acid. Hydrogen storage is currently a problematic issue that has made the use of fuel cells somewhat limited. Finding effective storage materials has become a major priority for those intending to promote fuel cells as primary energy systems.

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