“What is Clay?”
Many children around the world play with clay when they are young. But what exactly are they? Well, when natural rock or soil material is highly grounded, it can combine with a large amount of other elements overtime to make Clay. Clay’s flexibility and strength when hardened have made it useful in building materials and early writing utensils.
How ‘Invisible Wires’ Could Improve Solar Cell Efficiency
“How can we solve the silicon wire reflectivity problem in solar cells?”
We know that PV modules have a transmission wire reflectivity problem. But some research coming out of Stanford University could change this entirely. Instead of relying upon wires to channel electrons away from the silicon semiconductors, what if we were to use gold sheets with holes in them, and tiny silicon towers on top to redirect sunlight away from the gold sheet and into the holes? This way the maximum amount of sunlight can be absorbed and reflectivity can be minimized. This is just a small example of How ‘Invisible Wires’ Could Improve Solar Cell Efficiency.
Image Credit https://news.stanford.edu
Phase Changing Materials for Solar Panels
“How can we use phase-changing materials to cool down solar panels?”
Solar PV is the fastest growing energy system in the world. But that doesn’t mean that it’s without its problems. When they become too hot, they become very inefficient and reject a lot of heat into nearby structures. One way to counter this is to attach a layer of Phase Changing Materials at the back of the panel. The phase-changing material is a material at its critical value so it can absorb a voluminous amount of latent heat without changing its temperature. Not only does it act as a passive heatsink but it can store this thermal energy to be used in other applications such as heating water. Phase changing materials are usually attached in a capsule behind the PV panel and have an air gap behind them to ensure cooling. This is a great example of Phase Changing Materials for Solar Panels.
How to Produce Hydrogen Gas using Ethanol
“How can we produce Hydrogen Gas using Ethanol?”
Natural Gas Reformation is currently the most popular way to produce hydrogen gas. However, a large amount of greenhouse gases are released in the process, contributing to climate change. So is there a more sustainable way to produce hydrogen gas? Well, it turns out that Ethanol is an amazing substitute for natural gas! Therefore, we can Produce Hydrogen Gas using Ethanol.
Hydrogen Production through Electrolysis
“How can we produce hydrogen using electricity?”
Hydrogen is an amazing material. However, extracting it can be quite difficult. One way to do it is to take an anode and a cathode separated by an electrolyte and a membrane. The water will react at the anode to produce oxygen and positively charged hydrogen ions. The electrons will flow through the circuit and the hydrogen ions will move across the membrane to the cathode side. They will then meet and recombine to form hydrogen molecules. This way, we can Produce Hydrogen using Electrolysis. Since the only thing that needs to be added to the system is electricity, if our grid is powered by renewables then we can have a carbon neutral method of hydrogen production!
Image credit Department of Energy
Natural Gas Reforming
“How can we obtain Hydrogen from Natural Gas?”
Hydrogen is just as difficult to extract as it is useful. But luckily, there is one method which is able to produce it in a cost effective manner. Most of this is done in a process where high-temperature steam (700°C–1,000°C) is combined with a methane source such as Natural Gas under high pressures (around 2-35 bar) to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide. This process is known as Natural Gas Reforming and is used to create 95% of the natural gas supplies in the U.S.
Image Credit: ceram.material.tohoku.ac.
How can we obtain Hydrogen Fuel?
“How can we obtain Hydrogen Fuel?”
Hydrogen Fuel (H2) is an invaluable resource. Whether it be for powering hydrogen fuel cell batteries or making agricultural fertilizer. However, because of its special bonding properties, pure hydrogen is incredibly difficult to extract. So how can we use our engineering mindset to solve this problem? Well, there are a number of different ways. Natural gas can be reacted with high-temperature steam to for water to create H2 and Co, a very high power electric current can split water into dihydrogen and oxygen, Renewable liquid fuels, such as ethanol, can be reacted with high-temperature steam to obtain H2, and biological fermentation can occur. In the end there are many ways to make our desired fuel in a safe and economical manner.