Monday, 3 June 2013
Breakthrough Technology Boosts Potential of Renewable Hydrogen to Power Data Centres
A California-based company known as HyperSolar Inc. recently announced a major breakthrough in the development of nanoparticle technology for renewable hydrogen. The company claims their system is now capable of producing 0.75 volts of electricity in a highly efficient environment that opens the door to future commercial adaptation.
The main focus of the company's technology is to produce renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water. Sunlight is used to split the hydrogen atoms from the oxygen without any need for external wiring or an external power source. The energy resulting from the molecular splitting is converted into electricity.
Furthermore, any type of water can be utilised. The system works with pure water, salt water, and even wastewater from municipal treatment plants. The ability to use all types of water also holds the promise of adapting the technology for chemical production.
The recent developments announced by HyperSolar are fairly significant for the renewable hydrogen sector. By creating a way to produce hydrogen cheaply and efficiently, the company paves the way for a more widespread use of hydrogen-powered automobiles. And given that major auto manufacturers like Ford and Honda are aggressively pursuing hydrogen technology, HyperSolar's breakthroughs could not have come at a better time.
In terms of other uses, the IT industry immediately comes to mind. Right now, the system is nowhere near ready to power the average data centre, for example, but once a commercially viable model is developed then that could change. It's easy to foresee the day when electrochemical water splitting equipment provides hydrogen on the one hand, and electricity on the other.
The advantage of this technology over current photovoltaic technology is one of efficiency. While photovoltaic cells do produce significant amounts of power, they are too inefficient and expensive to use as a primary replacement for fossil fuels. However, just like solar thermal technology, HyperSolar's nanoparticle systems could make traditional photovoltaic cells obsolete.
The key is to design and build the systems on a large scale. For now, that goal is a long way off. Researchers have to figure a way to improve their current success to the point of producing 1.5 volts, or greater, before reaching commercial viability. That's possible in theory, but it may be a while before it actually materializes.
In the meantime, our renewable energy strategies will continue to focus on photovoltaic, wind power, and biomass systems capable of supplementing power generated by traditional oil, coal, and gas burning plants. Data centres and IT companies will do their part by installing more energy-efficient systems, green servers and energy storage systems with greater capacity.
It is indeed an exciting time for those involved in the technology sector. With the explosive rate at which energy technologies are developing, there's no telling what might be coming down the road in the near future. Here's hoping the HyperSolar nanoparticle research eventually pays off in ways greater than the team ever imagined...