The recent oilrig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has focused the entire nation on our dependence on fossil fuels for our energy needs. Here, we look at technological breakthroughs that can help reduce our dependence on oil and lead the way toward a clean energy economy.
Hydrogen and fuel cell technology is gathering momentum. Currently there are 68 hydrogen fueling stations throughout the United States, and there are 37 more planned. Even though when we first think of fuel cell technology, vehicles come to mind, different sizes in fuel cells can power a number of things such as vehicles, cell phones, laptops, buildings or even our homes. The applications for fuel cell technology are vast, yet costs of fuel cell manufacturing and hydrogen production were comparatively high to other fuels, slowing progress in this field. Research and development has helped to lower costs and accelerate wider applications of fuel cell technology. Informing the public of hydrogen and fuel cell technology and the many benefits is necessary for continued growth and replacement of fossil fuels as primary energy sources.
Through partnership with the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen Program, companies look for innovative ways to reduce costs associated with fuel cell technology to make it more affordable and competitive with fossil fuels, therefore highlighting an alternative to our dependence on foreign oil and a cleaner alternative that helps our economy. The United States DOE Hydrogen Program sponsors long-term research into hydrogen and fuel cell technology to close the large cost gap, making hydrogen energy a more viable alternative for our future energy needs. To learn more about the partnership go to http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov.
As the National Hydrogen Association (NHA), http://www.hydrogenassociation.org, Hydrogen Conference and Expo kicks off their largest event in the 21-year history of the expo during May 2010, a number of companies show case new technology and improvements in the hydrogen and fuel cell arena. Mercedes-Benz is displaying their fuel cell electric vehicle, the B-Class F-CELL. Mazda also has a vehicle at the expo, the Mazda RX-8 hydrogen rotary. Both vehicles are offered for test-driving by attendees of the expo and the public. Vision Industries is also allowing the public to ride in their Class-8 heavy-duty fuel cell truck, the Tyrano, which is used in the shipping industry.
Further highlighted at the expo are innovations in hydrogen production by Proton Energy Systems and WEH Technologies. According to the NHA Expo news release, Proton Energy Systems uncovers a new electrolyzer (a machine used to separate water components and collect hydrogen through the process of electrolysis) platform for hydrogen fueling that can produce the hydrogen equivalent of about 65 gallons of gasoline a day from water. WEH Technologies is displaying a new fuel spout that feels and operates like a regular gas nozzle, but this nozzle makes an airtight seal for providing odorless, environmentally friendly hydrogen gas. For more information on these items and other innovative products, go to www.hydrogenconference.org.
Now, looking at technology for business and home, organic solar cell technology, found in the SolarWindow offered by New Energy Technologies, Inc., http://www.newenergytechnologiesinc.com, is a one-of-a-kind technology that can generate electricity from solar and artificial light sources. This revolutionary solar cell can generate electricity from sunlight as well as indoor lighting, a breakthrough in solar cell technology in itself. Nevertheless, there is more. In January of this year, New Energy had a significant breakthrough in development of their SolarWindow technology.
Previous versions relied on a metal element to act as the negative polar contact to collect electricity in solar cells. Using metal however, blocked all visibility and prevented light from passing through glass. Scientists overcame this hurdle by integrating transparent, environmentally friendly compounds that replace the metal components as the negative polar contact. Now, this organic solar cell technology collects generated electricity while allowing light to pass through. A revolutionary solar cell, the method of application is remarkable as well.
The world’s smallest functioning solar cells can be sprayed onto see-through glass at room temperature, without expensive production methods. The thin film measures less than a tenth of other so-called thin films, and is 1/1000th the thickness of human hair. Without being hampered by the heavy production costs of older solar cell technology, New Energy’s organic solar cell has significant manufacturing advantages such as large cost savings, speedy production and room-temperature application. This patent-pending process is under development for possible use in the approximately five million commercial buildings and over 80 million single-family homes throughout the country.
This technology has broad potential. The use of ultra-small organic solar cells on other materials such as plastics, glass and even paper make future applications of this product worth serious consideration. In addition, in further studies, the New Energy’s organic solar cells significantly out perform other solar technologies that use monocrystalline silicon, cooper-indium-selenide or amorphous-silicon. Although this technology is still under development, the future of solar cells and their application looks to be much more diverse and wide spread that anyone would have thought possible just a few years ago.
Along with hydrogen fuel cell technology, organic solar cells, especially in New Energy’s potentially versatile application, are significant strides toward a clean energy economy and an independence from fossil fuels.