Harnessing the H in H2O
Published Thursday, March 28, 2013 2:48PM MDT Last Updated Thursday, March 28, 2013 3:01PM MDT
A team of Calgary researchers may have made a breakthrough when it comes to storing energy.
Simon Trudel and Curtis Berlinguette are part of a University of Calgary research group whose work centres on windmill power and generating an efficient way to store the energy created.
“There's nothing more gratifying for me than to be able to take the book that everybody follows and just throw it in the trash, because I don’t really care what that book says,” said Trudel.
The book used to say it was way too expensive to extract hydrogen from water but the research team has found an efficient way to store electrical energy by taking the H out of the H2O.
“You can then store that electricity as hydrogen fuel for as long as you want and you can then reintroduce it into the grid when there's high demand,” said Berlinguette.
The thinking is that Industrial wind farms could store energy produced in off peak hours and homes with a hydrogen fuel cell could release electricity from rooftop solar panels for use after dark.
“Our utopian vision of this technology is to take a suburban home in Calgary and completely remove it from the grid. You don't have any gas lines running in your home, you don’t have any electrical lines, you have a completely self sustainable home,” said Berlinguette.
Using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen isn't a new idea but until now it required catalysts made of rare, very expensive metals.
The U of C team has found a way to use almost any metal to do the job which makes it thousands of times cheaper.
“People have been looking into this but never realized that this method actually was the key to being able to implement this,” said Trudel.
The concept is still in the research stage but the team plans to use it to take a Calgary house off the grid by next year.
The team’s findings were published this week in the journal Science.
(With files from Kevin Green)