Density plot of the efficiency of using the output power of an ideal solar cell (band gap Eg) to produce and store chemical energy via reversible electrochemical (EC) reactions (credit: Mark T. Winkler et al./PNAS)

 

A solar-to-fuel roadmap for crystalline silicon

March 5, 2013

An MIT research team has published a detailed analysis of all the factors that could limit the efficiency of an “artificial leaf” — a small device that, when placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, would produce bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen for storing energy.

The new analysis lays out a roadmap for a research program to improve the efficiency of these systems, and could quickly lead to the production of a practical, inexpensive and commercially viable prototype.

Storing sunlight energy in fuel

Such a system would use sunlight to produce a storable fuel, such as hydrogen, instead of electricity for immediate use. This fuel could then be used on demand to generate electricity through a fuel cell or other device. This process would liberate solar energy for use when the sun isn’t shining, and open up a host of potential new applications.

Read more: A solar-to-fuel roadmap for crystalline silicon | KurzweilAI.

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