A California teen’s invention could potentially knock down cellphone-charging time to a superfast 20 seconds.
So far, the energy-storage device has powered only an LED light, but it has the potential to do much more.
The future certainly looks bright for 18-year-old Eesha Khare, who pocketed a $50,000 prize for the Young Scientist award from the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz., for her tiny and possibly revolutionary device.
Khare sees the device as potentially powering car batteries, cellphones or any electronics that could use a rechargeable battery.
Infrared light could help split water into hydrogen and oxygen, despite the fact that infrared photons have less energy than is needed to drive the reaction. That is the claim of physicists in China, who have calculated that the reaction could proceed with the help of a bilayer catalyst that has a strong internal electric dipole. While making this catalyst in the lab would be very difficult, the researchers are now trying to come up with a more practical alternative. If they are successful, such catalysts would allow a far larger proportion of the solar spectrum to be used to generate hydrogen – perhaps making it a commercially viable source of hydrogen fuel.
In the 1970s some scientists envisaged that electricity generated by nuclear power stations could be used to create large quantities of hydrogen via the electrolysis of water. The hydrogen could then be used as a clean fuel for transportation or stored and then converted back into electricity to even out imbalances between electrical supply and demand. However, nuclear power has become unpopular in many countries following high-profile accidents and increased costs, and more than 90% of the world's hydrogen is currently produced using fossil fuels.
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