November 08, 2010
announced that it has succeeded in producing hydrogen from the power of the sun at a level comparable to solar photovoltaics. The research breakthrough points to a highly scalable and renewable source of hydrogen that can be deployed as an additional system output in algae production settings.
To achieve this breakthrough, OriginOil researchers built a pared-down version of the company’s Hydrogen Harvester™ and tested many process variables and materials. They achieved hydrogen energy corresponding to a solar energy conversion efficiency of about 12 percent continuously for several hours on a partially clouded day. The sole energy input was the Sun. By comparison, commercial solar cells achieve conversion efficiencies between six and 20 percent.
Brian Goodall, OriginOil’s CTO, said: “Our experiments clearly demonstrate that this technology can generate renewable hydrogen at rates that matter to the global economy. These early rates compare well with those of the more mature solar cell industry, with the added benefit that the fuel, hydrogen, is readily storable. This is the first renewable source for today’s $39 billion hydrogen market.”
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “Efficient photoelectrochemical hydrogen production is a holy grail of renewable hydrogen production.”
OriginOil intends the Hydrogen Harvester™ to be deployed as an additional system output in algae production settings. In the field, efficiency may be lower than the 12 percent OriginOil has achieved in the research system. However, there is a counterbalancing factor: algae stores up energy during the day and will continue to generate hydrogen throughout the night.
As an added benefit, an algae production facility operating a Hydrogen Harvester™ can become self-sufficient for refining, since it will not be dependent on petroleum industry sources for hydrogen. Conversely, an algae facility’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide in great quantities can make a Hydrogen Harvester very attractive for a CO2-emitting conventional refinery.
Hydrogen has often been called the perfect fuel. Its major reserve on earth (water) is inexhaustible, meaning that we will never run out of hydrogen. If produced cleanly, efficiently and affordably from renewable resources, hydrogen is the ultimate green energy solution: it produces no air pollutants or greenhouse gases when used in fuel cells and the only pollutants generated when burned in internal combustion engines are nitrogen oxides (NOx).