Free energy breakthrough? Holy grail of water splitting technology now achieved with sunlight, mirrors and seawater


A team of scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder, have achieved what appears to be the "holy grail" of water splitting technology for the production and storage of clean, abundant energy. Because sunlight is free, I'm calling this "free energy."

To understand this breakthrough, it's important to first understand why solar power has so many limitations. Solar is great when the sun is shining, but storing solar power require the deployment of a large array of heavy, expensive and toxic electrical storage devices known as "deep cycle batteries." To put it in street terms, deep cycle battery technology sucks. The batteries suck, the chemicals suck, the weight sucks and the cost sucks. There is absolutely nothing to like about batteries unless you enjoy hulking around with heavy, useless objects.

So the "holy grail" of solar power has always been finding a way to store solar energy that's portable, dense and relatively lightweight. Until now, that discovery has been elusive.

But now a team of scientists in Boulder, Colorado say they have come up with "a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel."

Sunlight, mirrors and a reaction chamber

The system works by exploiting a large array of ground mirrors to focus sunlight onto a tall reaction tower. There, the intense heat (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) powers a reaction chamber containing metal oxides. The heat drives oxygen atoms off the metal oxides, causing them to "soak up" the oxygen from steam vapor introduced into the chamber. Steam vapor is, of course, made of water (H2O), so stealing the oxygen atoms from water leaves hydrogen gas that can then be collected.

In effect, the tower uses sunlight to split water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. The hydrogen gas is then collected, purified and pumped into high-pressure hydrogen containers which, pound for pound, are extremely dense "batteries" of energy that far out-perform chemical batteries.

Better yet, hydrogen gas then holds all this energy with 100% efficiency, losing no potential whatsoever, even if stored for decades. From an environmental perspective, hydrogen is also a super clean-burning fuel, producing no carbon dioxide emissions or particulate matter. (The reason hydrogen does not produce CO2 when combusted is because it does not contain carbon, obviously. CO2 production requires a carbon-based source of fuel such as hydrocarbons — coal, gasoline, diesel, etc.)

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the 4% of the universe we've so far discovered

Scientists like to say that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. But since 96% of the known universe is actually a mysteries unidentified "dark matter" that cannot be seen or touched, this is really just a guess. There may, in fact, be a "dark hydrogen" equivalent that is far more abundant than the hydrogen we know.

Nevertheless, in terms of the stuff we can see, feel, touch and produce, hydrogen is incredibly clean and readily abundant. Planet Earth, being a "water planet" with abundant water sloshing around, has a massive supply of hydrogen fuel locked up as water molecules. If solar energy can be efficiently used to split H2O into clean hydrogen fuel, then we finally have a realistic pathway for transitioning away from the fossil fuel economy and toward a hydrogen fuel economy.

This sunlight-powered water splitting tower could be the miracle breakthrough the world needs to end its hydrocarbon addiction. It could also turn northwest Mexico into an energy production hub, as the best places to build these hydrogen production towers would be in dry, cloudless deserts that are near a source of ocean water. The Mexican lands surrounding the Gulf of California would be ideal for such projects.

Burning hydrogen is child's play; fusion reactors are the far better way to go

Despite all the promise of splitting water and burning the hydrogen as fuel, I think it's worth noting that burning hydrogen gas is a stupid way to turn hydrogen into fuel. The far smarter use of hydrogen is to use it as a fuel in fusion reactors that produce "gobs" of electricity if I may humor you with yet more street slang.

Theoretically, hydrogen isolates extracted from seawater through the use of simple chemical separation techniques can be used as a fuel in hydrogen fusion reactors. In a fusion reactor hydrogen mass is turned into energy according Einstein's famous equation E=MC2.

Via mass-to-energy conversion, a very small amount of hydrogen can produce many orders of magnitude more energy than burning the same hydrogen (which is only a chemical reaction, not a nuclear reaction). I don't know exactly how many orders of magnitude more energy we're talking about here, but I'm guessing somewhere in the range of 9 – 10 (and I welcome anyone who has the actual answer to let us know so we can update it here). Nine orders of magnitude is a billion times more energy.

To get an idea of how much energy hydrogen can produce, you've probably heard the term "hydrogen bomb." This is a bomb constructed to turn hydrogen (and special isotopes) into pure energy in order to cause maximum tactical destruction.

Ultimately, the energy goals of human civilization should include finding ways to run hot fusion reactors that produce excess energy. Until that day comes, burning hydrogen fuel is at least a cleaner chemical reaction than burning hydrocarbons. And solar-powered water splitting technologies may be the key to making hydrogen production cheap and abundant.

Oh, and don't worry about running out of hydrogen. When you "burn" it, it reacts with oxygen in the air to form water, the byproduct of hydrogen combustion. Hydrogen isn't destroyed in the process, so you never run out. As long as the sun keeps shining, you'll always have abundant hydrogen energy here on Earth, as hydrogen is merely the "carrier" of the energy, not a consumable fuel itself like oil.

Sources for this article include:

Rebublished from NaturalNews
Written by Mike Adams

Featured image: Starokozache Solar Park by http://www.flickr.com/photos/92075126@N04/9092131449

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  1. I sincerely hope the Politicians of all persuasions have read this story to wake them up…… Here is the solution to the Black Goo that is held with such reverence. Most of the Wars and conflicts have been liked to OIL. If the concept of a Clean Green Technology is adopted, we wouldn't have to be sick and dying of the multitude of illnesses linked to the use of Coal,Petrol and Diesel oil. It seems Governments of all Countries can spend Trillions of Dollars on weapons of War, but God forbid they could spend the money on Generating a New Source of Energy to get us off Coal, Natural Gas and Petrol and Diesel. They talk about a Stimulus to get the Countries Going. Well if implementing this enormous change wouldn't do it nothing would….. John from Kapunda, Australia

  2. There are probably dozens of known technologies to produce energy and new discoveries arise from time to time. The technologies for storing and distributing that energy is at a relative standstill, however. Developing those technologies, applying clean, efficient production and putting the whole package together without the corporate domination would constitute the "Holy Grail" for free energy for everyone. Keep up the efforts!

  3. To bring this technology to market, as a private individual means a death sentence. Witness the death of Stanley Meyer, which figured out how to make an automobile run on water. He refused to sell the patent to the overlarge industrial/governmental/military complex. When he stood by his beliefs and his decision, he was murdered, and his information either stolen or denigrated , and labeled kooky, dangerous, and fraudulent.

    The corporations want you enslaved to the earth killing hydrocarbons so that they may enrich themselves with mammon.

    Solar energy is viable, but the author does have a point. If we the people can advance the basic science enough so that we can build this device (albeit in a rough form) in our "backyards", then we become wholly independent from the industrial giants.

  4. I think this is interesting technology but could have been introduced in the article without the solar bashing session. It sounds like having a tank full of metal oxides that is reacting with hot steam and creating an explosive gas would be just as if not more dangerous and bulky than deep cycle batteries which the author so easily dismissed as being heavy and toxic. this process sounds like it also involved heavy and toxic components.

  5. Again: Zirkoniumdioxide (ZrO2) works as catalysing agent at high temperature to break water molecules. If water is waporised, process energetical efficiency is about 50% against 30% of common process. A brief description of equipment is available by me.

  6. Nice, but how to store and distribute hydrogen at large amounts? have not heared about a cost-efficient method.
    About the theme: I am not a scientist but some teen years ago I thinked about carbonless energy and found it will be possible the base of hydrogen. Consumption of hydrogen: fuel cells, steam or stirling engines, common sombustion engine and also gas turbine (former Soviet plane Tupolev TU-154 has been converted 1 of 4 engines to hydrogen fuel)

  7. – The best of all worlds. Electrolysis of sea water by solar electric energy. Recovery of sea water chemicals. Hydrogen to be stored as clean fuel. Oxygen to the atmosphere in compensation of the used in Hydrogen combustion. Pure water as residual of combustion. A clean industry for coast tropical areas. Farewell to oil dependency on electricity generation. Who will be the first?. I guess that in Chile North Zone there is an inmediate future.

  8. I really feel that Hydrogen energy will be again the way of free energy for mainstream .. One way being along the technology line of cold fusion…

  9. Why is the Government not funding this!!! Who found this out should patent every aspect asap as this is going to be the future of energy and may finally put an end to the only other futuristic option of nuclear power. Since this has minimal side effects e.g. huge explosions could break out due to all that stored hydrogen but if contained properly there is no reason why this can't become internationally used in 5-10 years! Congratulations on this break through!

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