Optical Antennas Improve Hydrogen Production

Metal nanoparticles increase the efficiency of materials that use sunlight to split water

3 min read

10 August 2011—Using metal nanoparticles as antennas for light could make the production of hydrogen more affordable, say researchers at Stanford University.

Hydrogen is viewed as a potential carbon-free replacement fuel for automobiles. On Earth, the primary source of hydrogen is water, but today the processes for splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, while straightforward, usually require the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity. Solar power can be used to drive the splitting, but to compete with electricity from fossil fuels, it would have to be less expensive and more efficient.

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Practical Power Beaming Gets Real

A century later, Nikola Tesla’s dream comes true

8 min read
This nighttime outdoor image, with city lights in the background, shows a narrow beam of light shining on a circular receiver that is positioned on the top of a pole.

A power-beaming system developed by PowerLight Technologies conveyed hundreds of watts of power during a 2019 demonstration at the Port of Seattle.

PowerLight Technologies
Yellow

Wires have a lot going for them when it comes to moving electric power around, but they have their drawbacks too. Who, after all, hasn’t tired of having to plug in and unplug their phone and other rechargeable gizmos? It’s a nuisance.

Wires also challenge electric utilities: These companies must take pains to boost the voltage they apply to their transmission cables to very high values to avoid dissipating most of the power along the way. And when it comes to powering public transportation, including electric trains and trams, wires need to be used in tandem with rolling or sliding contacts, which are troublesome to maintain, can spark, and in some settings will generate problematic contaminants.

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