Thursday, June 30, 2005

Solar batteries

Thanks to “anonymous” for the comments below and the DailyKos today for pointing out what seems to be a new development in storing solar energy more efficiently. The process uses concentrated sunlight and a carbon source to split zinc oxide into zinc and oxygen. With raw zinc, you can produce two useful products easily. When recombined with oxygen it will produce electricity and zinc oxide, which would be recycled into the initial process. On the other hand, when zinc is combined with water, the result is hydrogen gas and again, zinc oxide to be recycled.

Essentially, the Sun does the work to break a chemical bond, and we get to reap the energy reward of rejoining that chemical bond in one fashion or another. (Ultimately, this is how we came have so much petroleum laying around underground).

We could use this in large-scale electric power plants with coal as the carbon source, but any biomass would do. We could also use this in cars. Here is a Shanghai ad for taxis, scooters and busses already using the zinc-air battery technology which has been around since ‘97; so you see there is already a small infrastructure in place for this. Thirdly, hydrogen gas could be used in the production of ammonia for fertilizer (I know, how dare I suggest such a non-organic thing). In addition, hydrogen gas could be combined with carbon monoxide, one of the byproducts of the solar process, to produce methanol, an excellent fuel.

The author of the Ergosphere goes into much more detail. Here is a schematic of the process.

Excellent news!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A penny for my thoughts?

The Chinese seem to be taking the lead. At first we'll see bikes and scooters and later on the first cars after they are entrenched in China. The Chinese companies will establish dealerships and supply chains for the products as well as the necessary means to "recycle" spent batteries.

I bet you the Chinese bring zinc reactors to the U.S. Sad isn't it?

6/30/2005 8:27 PM  

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