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Comment Re:Biofuels are NOT the future. (Score 1) 139

They've already done estimates which conclude that even if they converted all the land used to grow food for growing fuel, it wouldn't supply enough energy. And that is a best-case scenario - growing switchgrass and processing the cellulose and lignin using biotech that doesn't yet exist.

That's because plants (and this would hold true for other biological photosynthetic systems like algae) aren't very efficient converting solar energy. Solar panels are more efficient - and the sunlight gets converted directly to electricity. The problem is storing that electricity - batteries are expensive and they've reached a ceiling on energy density.

That's where hydrogen comes in. It stores energy based on chemical bonds - not electric charges like a battery - so the energy density is much higher than a battery. With the discovery of a cheap and efficient water-splitting catalyst by Daniel Nocera in 2008, connecting solar panels to an electrolyzer (and from there to a hydrogen storage/fuel cell) is now much more feasible. And it doesn't need to be done on a large scale like a solar farm - instead the energy is generated at the point of use. A distributed system like this means there's no need for a massive infrastructure project and it means that its a viable solution to the energy needs of the developing world. In addition, combusting the hydrogen (generated from dirty water) in the fuel cell produces pure water as a byproduct, suitable for drinking.

Nocera, named one of Time's 100 most influential people earlier this year, explains all this in an expository article in November's Inorganic Chemistry ( - The Chemistry of Personalized Solar Energy

Not biofuels. Not nuclear. Personalized Solar Energy.

Comment Re:Doesn't this sound like... (Score 4, Informative) 135

I like how she responded to this issue with the word 'democratization'. She doesn't seem to be so worried about some crazy terrorist getting access to this technology, as governments monopolizing it for biowarfare development. And I'm inclined to agree that we should be just as worried about the latter as the former. A few links about this scientist/entrepeneur:
Her Bio
Forbes article - DIY Life
MIT TechTV Video - DIY Biology

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