Friday, February 12, 2010

Alternate energy news

Glenn Reynolds links to a couple of interesting stories, one right after the other. One is about "deploying simple cell phone base stations that need as little as 50 watts of solar-provided power" to rural villages in Africa. Reynolds concludes, "This is the kind of solar application that makes sense even with current technology; using solar to replace coal plants in first-world countries is further down the line."

The other is about using solar power to convert water into hydrogen gas, which can then be used as fuel.

To generate the gas Thomas Nann and colleagues at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, dip a gold electrode with a special coating into water and expose it to light. Clusters of indium phosphide 5 nanometres wide on its surface absorb incoming photons and pass electrons bearing their energy on to clusters of a sulphurous iron compound.

This material combines those electrons with protons from the water to form gaseous hydrogen. A second electrode – plain platinum this time – is needed to complete the circuit electrochemically.

I find this very encouraging, despite Reynolds's snark about the University of East Anglia.

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