Recently we reviewed the book Solar by Ian McEwan. In that book, a fictional tale, the protagonist, Michael Beard, developed a means to generate energy using artificial photosynthesis – basically emulating what nature does with a leaf.
Well, here in this posting, we have a real protagonist (a much nicer man than Beard, I’m sure) who HAS a beard, doing much the same thing. His name is not Michael, though, it’s Dan. Dan Nocera, and he’s a chemist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to Scientific American,
One drinking-water bottle could provide enough energy for an entire household in the developing world if Dan Nocera has his way. A chemist from M.I.T. and founder of the company Sun Catalytix, Nocera has developed a cobalt-based catalyst that allows him to store energy the same way plants do: by splitting water.
Have a look at this video.
Even better, here is Nocera describing his team’s discovery in this video.
The full Scientific American article, entitled, “Will Artificial Photosynthesis Power The World?” can be read here.
Why, you may be asking, is this on a project management blog? Well, this is an example of a research project which has turned into a business which will be deploying energy projects and will be in need of project managers. That’s why. And you should know that there’s stimulus money around to help these research projects at ARPA-E.
In fact, your EarthPM bloggers wandered over to Dan Nocera’s company’s site at Sun Catalytix, and found that they are hiring. Not project managers, yet – product development engineers, and electrochemists, but where there’s product development, there’s a project.
So that’s the East Coast side of the story.
There’s a West Coast side as well.
Researchers with the US Department of Energyâ€™s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have now found that nano-sized crystals of cobalt oxide can effectively carry out the critical photosynthetic reaction of splitting water molecules. Heinz Frei, a chemist with Berkeley Labâ€™s Physical Biosciences Division, and his postdoctoral fellow Feng Jiao reported the results of their study in the journal Angewandte Chemie, in a paper entitled: â€œNanostructured Cobalt Oxide Clusters in Mesoporous Silica as Efficient Oxygen-Evolving Catalysts.â€
This article from which the above is extracted, featuring the work of the Helios laboratory at UCal Berkely, can be read in its entirety here.
The goal of Helios SERC (Solar Energy Research Center) is to produce carbon-neutral transportation fuels using solar energy as the source of stored energy. SERC pursues a route that doesnâ€™t include biological photosynthesis or biomass. Instead, SERC is involved in using sunlight to drive chemical reactions that can reform the atoms in water and carbon dioxide into liquid transportation fuels. This route does not depend on arable land, but does depend on a significant amount of captured sunlight and carbon dioxide.
West Coast….East Coast…worldwide…
Bottom line: Solar power will eventually play an important role in powering up the grid. Be smart and let it help power up your project management career!