Solar panels are becoming a familiar site in communities across the United States, but what about solar fuels? A solar fuel is produced from sunlight through artificial photosynthesis, mimicking what Mother Nature has been doing for billions of years. Many chemists and chemical engineers are working to make solar fuels a viable option in the future. Find out more in this Science Nation video.
Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation
A group of scientists has demonstrated a new way to use sunlight, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2)--some of the cheapest and most commonplace 'stuff' on Earth--to make unlimited amounts of fuel to power almost anything, anywhere. The method uses concentrated heat from the sun to convert water and CO2 into hydrogen (H2) or carbon monoxide (CO). Large amounts of these two gases could be combined to make liquid fuel that fits into America's existing energy economy. Find out more in this discovery.
Credit: California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Jointly owned by California Institute of Technology and ETH Zurich
The Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) has been established as a result of strategic planning and reorganization of NSF's Engineering Directorate (ENG). EFRI serves a critical role in helping ENG focus on important emerging areas in a timely manner. Each year, EFRI will recommend, prioritize and fund interdisciplinary initiatives at the emerging frontier of engineering research and education.
August 1, 2014
Solar power to go!
Concentrated solar energy converts CO2 and H2O into solar-powered fuel
More energy from our sun hits the Earth in one hour than is consumed on the planet in a whole year! But, the burning question is--how can we put all that sunshine to work making usable fuel?
With support from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) chemical engineer Sossina Haile and University of Minnesota mechanical engineer Jane Davidson are working to expand the nation's renewable energy storage capacity. Their mission is to put the heat of the sun to work creating renewable fuels from sources that don't need to be drilled out of the ground.
The researchers are collecting sunlight to drive chemical reactions that break apart water and carbon dioxide molecules in order to make alternative fuels, such as hydrogen fuel. Solar-powered fuels, or "sun gas," would power the vehicles we drive today, as well as airplanes. In this case, the sky really is the limit!
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1038307, EFRI-RESTOR: Thermochemical Routes to Efficient and Rapid Production of Solar Fuels.
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