A researcher from Duke University, Nico Hotz, has designed a system to make our home independent from the company that provides electric power: a hybrid system able to take advantage of sunlight so much to generate electricity how to produce hydrogen. During the day the house uses the electrical energy produced by thesolar panelsAnd when night falls, a generating system uses the hydrogen produced as fuel to keep everything running smoothly. Taken together, the Duke system has an average energy efficiency of 23%, a much better value than the 10% typically seen byPhotovoltaic systems conventional.
Hotz’s system takes advantage of the hours of sunshine to generate excess energy, and store in the form of hydrogen what is not used to provide electricity to the home at night. This has been implemented in many ways, the simplest being to use batteries. But the problem that these kinds of systems usually have is the general low efficiency. This engineer has managed to improve the performance of his system by also using sunlight to heat a solution of water and methanol that circulates through a series of glass tubes. That heat, after two catalytic reactions, produces hydrogen that can be stored in fuel cells and used when the photovoltaic panels are not operational.
” This hybrid system is capable of achieving an energy efficiency of 28.5 percent in the summer and 18.5 percent in the winter, resulting much higher than the between 5 and 15 percent that conventional systems achieve in the summer , and to the 2.5 percent to the 5 that they obtain in winter “, says Hotz. The engineer explains that when carrying out an exhaustive analysis of the costs involved in the implementation of his system, “it was found that this hybrid solar-methanol generator is the least expensive solution, with total installation costs of about 5,500 euros .” This is significantly more money than we would spend if we simply bought a conventional generator powered by fossil fuels, but it has the advantage that it does not pollute the environment and that you do not have to spend extra money on fuel every day. The Duke University project was presented at the ASME Energy Sustainability Fuel Cell 2011 conference , which brings together the research sector in the field of fuel cells and which was held days ago in Washington. While this is an experimental system, its cost and efficiency could make it a commercial product within a couple of years.