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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.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Marsha Walton, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.