M.I.T. chemist Dan Nocera has developed a cheap, eco-friendly energy producing gadget with poorer populations in mind. Similar to a $10,000 electrolyzer, Nocera's company Sun Catalytix's has developed a device that acts very similarly but will sell for only $40.
The device begins, like the electrolyzer, with a catalyst dipped in water, and instead of the first jolt generating from the electricity form a wall socket, it sparks from a small solar panel. Once the electricity travels through the catalyst, the water splits into hydrogen and oxygen. This device continues to work throughout the night despite the absence of sunlight due to the daily creation of hydrogen and oxygen gases that flow through the fuel cell and continue to generate power.
The device is completely eco-friendly as its only emission is pure water. Also, its efficiency allows it to be used anywhere with a water source. "Literally, we can just walk out to the Charles River, I can walk out to wastewater, I can walk to water in a gully with human waste, put my catalyst in it and it starts working," he says. "So it's perfectly stable in dirty water streams, which is important to me for the poor."
To keep the device affordable, the solar panels are a lower grade design, but will more than exceed the electricity needs of developing nations. It also uses a cobalt elemental catalyst, which is easy to find, and as the cobalt atoms flake off the catalyst, a small burst of solar power transfers them back into a reactive state and keeps the device running.
This device is a hopeful solution to solving some of our energy needs, and is a step towards developing technology for the masses to ensure universal human needs, while having a zero-carbon impact on the environment. Nocera hopes that within two years the device will be refined to make it more reliable, affordable, and easier to use and out in the world market.
Image: "Water World" by Anua22a on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.Tweet