Wired News reports that University of Massachusetts (Boston) chemists have figured out how to nearly double the efficiency of a solar-powered process used to make hydrogen fuel. Solar power is employed to crack water molecules into component hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The new technique is 30 percent efficient, significantly improving over the 18 percent efficiency of the previous solar water cracking process.
Moreover, this begins to put solar-process hydrogen production on a competitive footing to the current mainstream H2 process, which mixes steam and natural gas. This current method is not environmentally benign, nor will it move us away from fossil fuel usage. Ecological and resource sanity are two big selling points for hydrogen power.
How long will it take before this process is economically viable? The inventor says up to five years; a principal scientist at the government's National Renewable Energy Laboratory quoted in the article argues it will more likely be up to 20 years. I'm expecting the latter, but hoping for the former.
Excellent. Sustainability blogging continues. Good post.