• Question: scientists are always looking for knew ways of powering cars and such for the future, but is anyone close yet? Do you think that the work your doing will contribute most to solving the energy crisis?and is this way of making hydorgen efficient, and possible to be used in things other then cars?

    Asked by 07stoombs to Stuart on 27 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: Stuart Archer

      Stuart Archer answered on 27 Jun 2013:

      Hi, that’s a lot of really good questions!

      We’re pretty close actually in making decent electric cars (there are quite a few examples already!) The main problem we need to solve with them is the battery – these simply are too large, don’t store enough power and take too long to charge for most people. Things like hydrogen powered cars are a longer way off yet – most people reckon a good 15-20 years before you’ll be able to buy one for a reasonable amount of money.

      The way we plan to make hydrogen definitely has applications other than in cars. You could, in theory, have hydrogen gas pumped to your house in the same way that you have natural gas at the moment. It’s also really useful in a lot of industrial processes – there are some scientists who are trying to find ways to use it to replace coal in steel making for instance. In terms of absolute efficiency, it’s maybe not as good as other more established methods of making hydrogen, but because we plan to get the energy to do it from the Sun, all the energy is basically free!

      The energy crisis is a tricky one – there’s not really one ‘golden bullet’ magical solution that will solve all of the world’s energy problems (well, perhaps nuclear fusion, but that’s a different story..) My work, and the other people who work on similar things, is just a small part of what we need to do to solve the energy crisis. Transport (cars, trucks, planes etc.) accounts for only about 1/3 of global greenhouse gas emissions, so we need to focus on the other problems as well – things like replacing coal power stations, finding greener ways of making steel and concrete, new ways of treating sewage water, farming……. The list goes on!