Hydrogen and solar renewable energy getting a shot in the arm

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It’s been a good week for renewable energy efforts, in two different departments.

GreenFutures magazine has a report on hydrogen being produced from plant matter, in a study conducted by US scientists at Virginia Tech University. In the experiments, hydrogen has been liberated by using mixing xylose sugar with a cocktail of enzymes, water, and a polyphosphate. The mixture is exposed to relatively low heat – around 50 degrees celsius – and yields a high-purity hydrogen gas. The great news here is that the low heat requirement could come from waste heat generated by existing processes, and that means cheap production of hydrogen gas.

Existing processes for extracting the element either need a lot of energy (in the case of electrolysis) or produce excess carbon dioxide (when using steam reforming).

Meanwhile, Sharp has unveiled a new type of solar cell, with record efficiency. The new tech uses triple-junction architecture and manages to be 44.4% efficient. Minimising losses and improving on efficiency is high on the agenda for manufacturers of photovoltaic cells and panels. Giving companies, and eventually consumers, more watts for their square metre is important – and doing so will also ensure that the average house with roof-installed panels can power itself. You know, rather than needing an entire farm of panels to get a mere 1 megawatt of juice.


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Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.