“Personal” solar energy will help meet world’s energy needs, professor says

Personal-scale solar energy is essential to meeting the world’s energydemands in the next century, Massachusetts Institute of Technologyprofessor Daniel Nocera said in the latest issue of Inorganic Chemistry.

Noceraenvisions a catalyst that could split water molecules into hydrogen andoxygen; the hydrogen, in turn, would be used to generate electricity ina fuel cell. The process is not dissimilar to photosynthesis, theseries of reactions by which plants generate energy.

Electricitydemand will double by mid-century and triple by 2100, Noceraanticipates, necessitating new energy-generation technologies. Personalsolar power could meet the world’s energy needs in a sustainablemanner, he suggests.

"Point-of-use solar energy will put individuals … on a more level playing field," he said.

Nocerawas lauded by Time magazine as one of its 2009 Time 100, a list of theworld’s 100 most influential people. In an interview with the magazine,he suggested that, by mid-century, global energy needs could be met bysplitting a minute amount of water.

And the technology Noceradeveloped is being refined by a company called Sun Catalytix, which wasone of 37 firms to receive a grant from the Department of Energy’sARPA-E program. Only 1 percent of companies that applied were given agrant, the DOE says.