Thursday, August 28, 2008

Confusion over Media Report of M.I.T. "Solar Revolution" Claim?

An opinion piece at Scitizen:

Reports of a new discovery, by a team of MIT researchers, in the popular media are confusing, claiming that a magic "catalyst" has been discovered that can promote artificial photosynthesis, and which will solve the world's energy problems. The reality is less overwhelming and demonstrates a good case for the need for scientific integrity in all reporting of new "discoveries" in the media as in the scientific literature.

It is claimed [1,2] that researchers from M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have developed a new catalyst(?) for the electrochemical production of oxygen, which is part of a novel device to store solar-energy to use when the sun is not shining. Combined with a platinum catalyst(?) to generate hydrogen the two gases are produced using solar energy during daylight, and combined using a fuel-cell to produce electricity after dark.

The oxygen-producing catalyst is quoted as being made "of cobalt metal(?), phosphate, and an electrode, placed in water". "When electricity - whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source - runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced."

I think in reality, for "catalyst" one should read "electrode". What they have actually done is to develop a new anode (positively charged electrode in an electrolytic cell) for the splitting of water by electrolysis. The solution contains Co2+ cations (not cobalt metal) and HPO4]2- anions [3]. The electrode material consists of indium tin oxide upon which becomes absorbed some "cobalt-phosphate" solid when current is passed through it....MORE
See our post:
MIT on MIT's "Solar-Power Breakthrough"