Sun burns water

A zippo lighter 'burning' water instead of a flameThanks to Sakis Koukouvis, I’ve just learned about a breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis achieved by researchers headed by Professor Sun at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden.

The researchers have designed a molecular catalyst able to convert water into oxygen and protons at speeds similar to natural photosynthesis.

“This speed increase opens the possibility of building large hydrogen production facilities, for example in the Sahara where sunshine is plentiful. Or we may be able to achieve far more efficient conversion of solar energy into electricity,” Sun says.

“I’m convinced that, within ten years, this type of research will lead to technology that’s inexpensive enough to compete with coal,” he continues. “It’s no surprise that [U.S. President] Barack Obama is investing billions of dollars in this area.”

This all sounds truly wonderful, from one perspective.

From another, it’s not going to be that great if we switch from burning up all the fossoil on our planet to converting its water into hydrogen — and burning all of that instead. In that event, the global warming brakes could be permanently set to ‘off’.

Other research suggests that while excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence, humans are too optimistic for our own good.

I think we’d be wise to get to grips with our insatiable energy appetite before unleashing another potential frankenstein’s monster.

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, News and politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sun burns water

  1. Martin Lack says:

    As I suspected, Colin, your ‘humans are too optimistic for our own good’ links to the work of Tali Sharot, which was featured on the BBC’s Horizon programme last month, about which Paul Handover blogged at the time. However, the new research you report on here does sound interesting. Although, as you say, it will have to be used wisely – everything in moderation…


  2. Patrice Ayme says:

    It seems to me that it would be a closed circuit: bring water, use sun, make H2, burn that, make water. No carbon, no CO2, no greenhouse… Did I miss something? Anyway, very interesting, thanks!


    • pendantry says:

      I don’t know, maybe you’re right. The problem we’ve got is an energy imbalance on a planetary scale. Isn’t liberating hydrogen from water and burning it going to add to that imbalance? We’d be trapping energy from the sun that wouldn’t otherwise be trapped. I think? I’m confused, now…


      • jpgreenword says:

        PA has brought up an interesting question… The science teacher in me is intrigued : )
        Technically, you are absorbing solar energy (that would other wise warm the Earth) to break appart the water molecule. The energy produced from that combustion would be converted into mechanical energy to power the generator… so as long as we aren’t release more GHGs, I figure we’re ok.
        My bigger concern would be the water consumption. But, then again, it is can be done in a “closed loop”…


        • David Gransden says:

          The planet is a closed loop, the water can’t go anywhere. Some of the energy from the sun that would have turned directly into heat, is held for a while in the hydrogen, and then comes back as heat again when the hydrogen fuel is used. No change to the earth as a whole. In the far future we might cover so much land with solar panels that it locally effects the climate, (not to mention the local wildlife), but we do that now with pavement and cities. So keep the population in check and run on solar, like all animals before us.


  3. leavergirl says:

    Um. So they propose that we break down water into hydrogen…. in the Sahara. Where there is no water. Sigh. And hauling water into the Sahara will ruin the EROEI, no? What am I missing?


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