Fuel Cells Current Affairs

Scientists switch on the world’s largest artificial sun

Scientists from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have switched on world’s largest artificial sun – a device developed to help shed light on new ways of making climate-friendly fuels.

The artificial sun is giant honeycomb-like set-up of 149 spotlights, officially known as Synlight. It is located in Juelich. It uses xenon short-arc lamps normally found in cinemas to simulate natural sunlight.

Key Facts
  • The aim of Synlight experiment is to develop an optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel.
  • Its goal is to eventually use actual sunlight rather than the artificial light produced using electricity which is costly and requires as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would use in a year.
  • Using the array, scientists are seeking to produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation by focusing the entire array on a single 8×8 in spot (20*20cm).
  • When light from all the lamps is aligned to concentrate on a single spot, it can generate temperatures of around 3,500 degree Celsius i.e. temperature two to three times of a blast furnace.
Significance of this experiment

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, but on earth it is relatively rare. One way to manufacture hydrogen is to split water (H2O) into its two elemental components – Hydrogen and oxygen, using electricity in electrolysis process. Synlight experiment will bypass usage of electricity by tapping into the enormous amount of solar energy that reaches Earth from sun. Hydrogen obtained from it will be used to be used in fuel cells, a clean source of energy that does not produce carbon emissions.

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NPL Scientists produce electricity from water without using energy

Scientists have developed a novel way using of producing electricity from water hydroelectric cell at room temperature without using any power or chemicals.

The major breakthrough was developed by team of scientists led by Dr. RK Kotnala from Delhi’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

How does it works?

  • In this new method, scientist had used zinc and silver as electrodes to make a cell that produces electricity. They had used nanoporous magnesium ferrite to split water into hydroxide (OH) and hydronium (H3O) ions.
  • As magnesium has high affinity for hydroxide, it spontaneously splits water into hydroxide and hydronium ions. The H3O ions get trapped inside the nanopores of magnesium ferrite and generate an electric field. The electric field helps in further dissociation of water.
  • To further enhance the activity of magnesium ferrite, about 20% of magnesium is replaced with lithium. The substitution of lithium at magnesium site increases the sensitivity of magnesium ferrite.
  • This is helpful in dissociating water at room temperature as the electrons get trapped in the oxygen deficient sites.

Significance: The hydroelectric cell using magnesium ferrite of 1 sq. inch size can produce 8 mA current and 0.98 volt. Further if these four cells [of 2-inch diameter] are connected in series the voltage increases to 3.70 volts and can operate a small plastic fan or a LED light of 1 watt.

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