MIT Spin-Off Stores Sun's Energy to Power the World

By Martin LaMonica on September 28, 2009

 

The team at Sun Catalytix are pursuing a technology and commercial breakthrough--not an incremental improvement to solar technologies, as fellow MIT spin-off 1366 Technologies is doing.

 

The core of Sun Catalytix's technology is a cobalt phosphate catalyst that is more efficient at splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen than other materials, according to Nocera. During his talk, he said that it will work under ambient temperatures and with a wide range of water quality--the lab has tested water from the Charles River in Boston and it operates well.

There are already commercial electrolyzers that split water to make hydrogen, but they are expensive and require a significant amount of energy to run. Sun Catalytix is testing an electroylzer, built around the catalyst, that can be manufactured using cheap PVC plastic, Nocera said.

The idea is to use solar panels to power the electrolyzer to produce hydrogen which would be stored in tanks. When people need electricity, the stored hydrogen would put through a fuel cell.

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