The Next Big Thing #9: Turning Electricity Into Fuel
Posted by Richard Conniff on December 27, 2013
The big problem with solar and wind technologies is that they generate power only intermittently. That means they require batteries or compressed air methods to store power during peak production and make it available when production drops. But microorganisms that have evolved in some of the most extreme environments on Earth promise to handle this task more efficiently. In a pilot study at the Vienna University of Technology, researchers have demonstrated that they can use the surplus electricity from renewable energy sources to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Then they feed the hydrogen to microorganisms, which convert it almost instantly into natural gas. That fuel is easily stored and can fire conventional generators when the solar and wind generators are idle.