The energy storage breakthrough we've been waiting for?
Quick Take: Look at most technologies and you see occasional step functions, where a breakthrough improves things by an order of magnitude. Look at energy storage and you see only a series of slow increment improvements.
Now two scientists from the University of Calgary are claiming they may have found that elusive breakthrough in the form of an electrolyzer that could be both more effective and less expensive than current methods. They believe in it enough that they've formed a spin-off company to bring it to market.
They're promising a commercial prototype by 2014 and a residential version by 2015... but I think they are far too optimistic. Even if the technology is everything promised, it will take many years to commercialize it and bring costs down. - Jesse Berst
The discovery by Curtis Berlinguette and Simon Trudel, who are both in the chemistry department at University of Calgary's Faculty of Science, is a way to make catalysts for converting electricity into chemical energy. According to a story in e! Science News, the technology opens the door for both homeowners and energy companies to more affordably and efficiently store and reuse energy from renewables.
As e! Science News explains it: "Electrolyzer devices use catalysts to drive a chemical reaction that converts electricity into chemical energy by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen fuels. These fuels can then be stored and re-converted to electricity for use whenever wanted."
But apparently the key to what Berlinguette and Trudel did was to deviate from conventional thinking about catalysts and use a simpler and far less expensive approach.