An End to Oil

November 30, 2013 c Ken Peterson

Within twenty years it may not matter who controls the World’s oil, coal and natural gas. The current attempts at conservation and at international agreements may not be so important.

The World’s political and commercial considerations may greatly alter.

It is likely that fossil fuels will soon be replaced as sources of energy for heat, industry and transportation. They will become almost irrelevant.

Recently, the World’s two most respected general science publishers,  Science and Nature, reported astounding advances in solar energy technology. These point ways to solve all of the major problems which have held back green energy.

The problems of availability, abundance, cost, emissions, sustainability, convenience, energy storage and transportation fuel are all likely to be solved.

As related July 8 by BBC News, Swiss researchers reported on July 7, 2013, in Nature Materials on line, their production of significant quantities of hydrogen from sunlight, rust and water.  One researcher says that the most expensive part of the solar cell will be the glass cover plate.

The percent conversion of sun energy to hydrogen has been at least fifteen percent.

Although the form of the rust and the way it is applied to the electrode support is important, they are not costly or difficult. The technology is amenable to very high volume production.

It would seem the cost of hydrogen will be very low. However, someone quoted current cost at about $ 6.00 per kilogram. That seems at odds with the very low cost of the cell unit. There are obvious details to work out and to be made clear.

The journal Science, in the October 18, 2013 edition, published two separate reports on advancements in photovoltaics, in which the light energy is converted directly to electricity.

Advances over current technology are the use of ordinary inexpensive materials and simple methods under ordinary conditions.

They could be cheap and easily produced on a very large scale.

The cost of the cells are projected to be one-fourth of the cost of current photovoltaics which should make these the least costly of any regular energy production; less even than cheap coal based energy in China and India.

There are two difficulties with the photovoltaics disclosed in Science.. One is that the efficiency of energy production decreases with use.

The only reported test show a decrease in efficiency of less that 20 percent in 500 hours of use. That is a great improvement over recent earlier attempts, but for practical use the stability of the material must be greatly improved.

The other problem is the use of lead in the plates. However, the amount of lead used is not great and is far less than the use in ordinary automotive storage batteries.

Most recent was the publication in Nature on line, November 10, 2013 the report of greatly improved efficiencies and the absence of lead in cells using crystalline materials similar to the ones reported in Science. These offer an approach to greatly increased energy from the same sunlight, greater safety and better stability.

The production of hydrogen seems to offer a ready solution to two major problems of wind and solar energy. Hydrogen allows convenient energy storage for continued power production during periods without sunlight and it can provide fuel for cars, trucks, buses and other mobile applications.

Honda, Toyota and Hyundai announced plans to produce hydrogen fuel-cell passenger vehicles in the next few years.

The two solar hydrogen and photovoltaic technologies suggest the potential for modular, easily transported,  easily assembled devices useable at most locations at most latitudes on land or on the sea.

They promise to replace most of petroleum, coal and natural gas use in the World by providing abundant, dependable, available, usable energy so cheaply that no other source can compete.

It should remove the incentive for deforestation and the use of farm lands for the production of biodiesel and alcohol.

Great reduction of greenhouse gases and other pollution will result.

Abundant cheap energy will produce great benefits in economics, health and education Worldwide.

If these technologies fulfill their promise nearly anyone anywhere will be able to produce their own energy.

The present efforts to reduce the use of carbon based fuels, global warming and pollution must continue fully. But the greatest benefits promise to come from research and development and from very large scale production and use of advanced technologies.

These justify efforts as great as any of the Second World War.

1 ) Perovskite oxides for visible-light-absorbing - Nature
Published online 10 November 2013

2) A New Solar Material Shows Its Potential MIT Technology Review
Nov 10, 2013 - Perovskite-based solar

3)  Efficient organometal trihalide perovskite
P Docampo - ‎2013 Nov 12, 2013 -
Organometal trihalide perovskite solar cells offer the promise of a low-cost easily manufacturable solar

.4) Perovskite-Based Solar Cells -
G Hodes - ‎2013 Science
www.sciencemag.org › 18 October 2013 perovskite-

5) Identifying champion nanostructures for solar water-splitting
SC Warren - ‎2013
Nature www.nature.com/nmat/journal/v12/n9/full/nmat3684.html
J ul 7, 2013 - . α-Fe2O3 electrodes that are of interest in solar-to-hydrogen energy

6.) BBC News - Rust promises hydrogen power boost
Jul 8, 2013 - Rust could help boost the efficiency of hydrogen production from sunlight .
... Details are published in the journal Nature Materials