Researchers develop device to create fuel from sunlight
Until now we have heard of how sunlight could be used as a form of alternative energy. Here is a ‘break through’ in science – American and Swiss researchers from California Institue of Technology and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology respectively, have found out a way to make fuel from sunlight. They developed a prototype device that directly converts the sun’s rays into fuels that can be stored. This energy can then be used at night when there is no sun or even be transported to areas with no sunlight. It uses a quartz window and cavity to focus the sunlight into a cylinder which is lined with cerium oxide, is an oxide of the rare earth metal cerium and is a pale yellow-white powder. It can attract and hold water molecules from the surrounding environment and also absorbs a small amount of carbon dioxide. As the sunlight heats the ceria, it breaks down the water and carbon dioxide pumped into the cylinder to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen that can be converted to a liquid fuel.
This hydrogen can be used to fuel cars and if combined with carbon monoxide can create syngas – a combustible gas used as a fuel source or as an intermediate for the production of other chemicals. The device is not currently very efficient but using better insulation and smaller apertures can help increase efficiency of up to 19 per cent.