The boffins are at it again They have just invented a new kind of solar cell that produces hydrogen from salt water.
In Situ Formation of an Oxygen-Evolving Catalyst in Neutral Water Containing Phosphate and Co2+There are two possible flies in this ointment.
Matthew W. Kanan 1 and Daniel G. Nocera 1*
The utilization of solar energy on a large scale requires its storage. In natural photosynthesis, energy from sunlight is used to rearrange the bonds of water to O2 and H2-equivalents. The realization of artificial systems that perform similar "water splitting" requires catalysts that produce O2 from water without the need for excessive driving potentials. Here, we report such a catalyst that forms upon the oxidative polarization of an inert indium tin oxide electrode in phosphate-buffered water containing Co2+. A variety of analytical techniques indicates the presence of phosphate in an approximate 1:2 ratio with cobalt in this material. The pH dependence of the catalytic activity also implicates HPO42– as the proton acceptor in the O2- producing reaction. This catalyst not only forms in situ from earth-abundant materials but also operates in neutral water under ambient conditions.
Indium is not abundant.
It will be interesting to see if this can be manufactured at a reasonable cost.
The New York Times has more.
H/T Just One Minute
Update 02 Aug 008 1415z
Commenter Bill Woods at Classical Values tells me that this is not a solar cell but a more efficient way to separate hydrogen from oxygen. He is right.
Cross Posted at Classical Values