A solar-powered, non-fossil fuel means of generating, safely storing, and recovering hydrogen gas.
The U.S. Navy seeks to commercialize U.S. Patent Application 12/538,231 (Solar-powered system for generation/storage of hydrogen using substrate microstructures)
Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion is the largest contributor to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for 79% of global warming potential weighted emissions since 1990. In 2009, 83% of our nation’s energy was produced from the combustion of fossil fuels (Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009, April 2011, EPA). It is believed that hydrogen gas is an ideal replacement for fossil fuels, but currently, hydrogen gas is either produced from fossil fuel-powered processes, or captured as a byproduct from natural gas and petroleum conversion. Both processes contribute to global carbon emissions. Furthermore, current methods for safely storing hydrogen gas require fossil fuel energy; and most storage methods pose an explosive hazard to the end user because the stored hydrogen gas is highly compressed.
SSC Pacific has developed a solar powered “Hydrogen Sponge” that generates and safely stores hydrogen gas for use in fuel cell and hydrogen based technologies without the use of fossil fuel energy. It consists of a modified version of a standard solar cell mated with a uniquely designed silicon substrate. The substrate consists of precisely engineered micro-chambers that provide both a micro-structure for electrodes, and reservoirs for the collection and safe storage of hydrogen gas. The micro-chambers allow hydrogen gas to be safely stored without compression.
When the Hydrogen Sponge is placed in sunlight and seawater, it uses solar powered water electrolysis to generate and safely store hydrogen gas in its substrate micro-chambers for later use, transport, or long term storage. The hydrogen is then released by increasing pressure in the micro-chambers through mechanical, electrical, or thermal means. In theory, a 9-inch array of mated solar cells and substrate micro-chambers could generate 2.5 joules of useable power each second. This number could be increased by stacking multiple wafers, creating various arrays, increasing the micro-chamber size, or engineering more micro-chambers per square inch on a wafer.
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- SD 880, March 2010. SSC Pacific, San Diego, CA 92152–5001. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.