Something Wicked Good This Way Comes
Okay, this blog isn't really about audio or video. Not directly at least, but I wanted to mention that we've been in search of clean power, cheap power, non-global-warming-controversy-inducing power, for a long time. Nuclear is clean (you know, in the beginning), and so is hydroelectric power, but only a few of us live near enough a river to take advantage of that. Besides, the amount of paper needed to complete the required zoning permits and environmental impact statements to install that bright red waterwheel you've been eyeing would negatively impact your carbon footprint, so forget that.
But by some estimates, the amount of energy the sun pours on Terra Firma in one hour is enough to power the energy needs of the planet for a year. Were that to happen, we could all have Class A amplifiers and Krell would again rule the world! In any case, the concept is exhilarating.
The problem thus far has been how to get that energy and put it to use. Photovoltaic arrays (i.e., solar panels) are enormously inefficient ways of generating energy. Fortunately, good world citizen Sharp is sinking billions into developing them at their plant in Osaka, where LCD and solar cell production have more than just a passing resemblance.
But even, or should I say when, we lick the efficiency problem, any excess power you hope to save to use when the sun goes down has to be stored in batteries which themselves are inefficient, short-lived and ecologically unfriendly.
Enter Daniel Nocera, researcher extraordinaire at M.I.T. who last week announced, well, I'll let you listen for yourself. Imitating photosynthesis with simple catalysts, Nocera turns water into hydrogen and oxygen gas and stores these. At night, a fuel cell recombines them, producing H2O while releasing energy that fuel cells converts into back into electricity. What's not to love? Even the water gets recycled!
I'm not on the Noble Prize selection committee because, well, basically because I'm too stupid to be, but if I were, this guy would get my vote. Of all the (admittedly limited) scientific news I've read, this is perhaps the most exciting of my lifetime! If it were coming from somewhere other than M.I.T or Lehigh (go Engineers!), I'd be crying the cold-fusion blues, but this seems to be so simple and pure, it has to be true. At least, I hope.
And all you A/V folks out there, get ready to
throw away recycle all that surge protection, power regeneration crap you've got lying around and hook your home theater up to the clean, clean, sweet sounds of your own power grid.