Red Ice Membership

Unlimited New Energy from Sun and Water
2004 10 04

A revolutionary new way of harnessing the power of the sun to extract almost unlimited energy from water will be a reality within seven years.

“It would be the cheapest, cleanest and most abundant energy source ever developed,” say scientists from Australia’s University of New South Wales. “The main by-products would be oxygen and water.”

Special titanium oxide ceramics will harvest sunlight and split water to produce hydrogen fuel. The researchers say it will then be a simple engineering exercise to make a device with no moving parts to harvest the energy; and it will give off no greenhouse gases or pollutants.

“This is potentially huge, with a market the size of all the existing markets for coal, oil and gas combined,” says Professor Janusz Nowotny who, with Professor Chris Sorrell, is leading a solar hydrogen research project at the University’s Centre for Materials and Energy Conversion. The team is thought to be the most advanced in developing the cheap, light-sensitive materials that will be the basis of the new technology.

Chris Sorrell says Australia is ideally placed to take advantage of the enormous potential of this new technology: “We’ve abundant sunlight, huge re-serves of titanium. But this technology could be used anywhere in the world. It’s been the dream of many people for a long time to develop it and it’s exciting to know that it is now within such close reach.”

Although existing hydrogen fuel cell technology is more efficient than the internal combustion engine and dramatically cuts down vehicle emissions, currently hydrogen is produced from fossil fuel, so that it still gives off greenhouse gases. This new process would cut out these emissions.

In Britain, a team of scientists at Leeds University have developed an-other process that enables hydrogen to be produced from vegetable oils, so cars could in future have a tank of sun-flower oil that would be converted into hydrogen to power the fuel cell motor.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, the world’s first commercial-scale floating Wave Energy Converter, The Pelamis, has successfully generated its first electricity for the UK grid.

In the US over 350 bankers and investors met to explore the state of financing for renewable energy in America. The American Council on Renewable Energy and Euromoney was completely oversubscribed. “It’s great to see renewable energy entering the mainstream,” said the organizers.

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