Thursday, June 28, 2012

Solar Hydrogen for a cleaner future


With recent announcement of the prestigious award to NREL (National renewable energy laboratory, USA) for developing SJ3 solar cells along with their industrial partner Solar Junction, there is a new hope and expectation that PV solar will become a major source of clean energy of the future.Togather with Hydrogen as an energy carrier, the PV solar hydrogen will certainly be a game changer. With increasing efficiency of solar panel from 17.24% up to 50%, and generating high pressure hydrogen using improved solid polymer electrolyzer, the sun and water will become the future source of clean energy replacing our decade long dependency on fossil fuel. There is also a distinct possibility of converting water into hydrogen by direct sunlight using photo-electrolysis as explained in my previous article, “Can we duplicate Nature’s photosynthesis for Hydrogen production?”’ dated April 2,2012. SJ3 solar cell uses tunable band gaps, lattice matched architecture with ultra-concentration tunnel junction to achieve the highest conversion efficiency of 43.5% with a possibility to reach an efficiency of 50%.This conversion efficiency is the percentage amount of solar energy converted directly into electrical energy. Such a high efficiency is due to the lens focusing the sunlight with 418 times intensity of the sun. There is no additional cost involved except the bottom Germanium layer of three junctions with Gallium and a dash of dilute nitride alloy. This small change boosts the bottom band-gap from 0.67 eV (electron volts) to 1.0 eV.The three layered SJ3 cell captures various frequencies of sunlight at various times and conditions achieving the best efficiency of converting photons to electrons. High pressure PEM Hydrogen generators producing 99.99% purity Hydrogen at elevated pressures are already under development. With carbon fiber storage tanks up to 10,000 psi pressure ratings, Fuel cell cars will become commercial reality overtaking Lithium battery powered electrical vehicles.PV solar Hydrogen will significantly alter the transportation and stationary power generation industries in the future simply because hydrogen has the highest heat value and it is absolutely clean. Age old centralized power plants using fossil fuels with highest carbon emission and water consumption has created serious environmental problems all over the world. Coastal power plants discharge huge amount of ‘once through’ cooling water into the sea at higher temperature and at higher salinity.Tranasport industries using fossil fuels emit high greenhouse gases due to age old, inefficient combustion engines causing global warming. Low humidity, high surface temperatures, dry conditions and lightning are perfect combination of conditions for bush fires similar to the one witnessed in Colorado mountain ranges. It is a right time to adopt distributed energy systems so that individual houses and business can generate their own power using PV solar and wind Hydrogen with no transmission grids and grid failures. It is time to replace fossil fuel with sun’s light and pure water so that we can hope for a cleaner future. We have all the necessary technologies and we need a will and concerted effort to make these changes.