Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


UC research looking at alternative energy capture & storage

UC research looking at alternative energy capture and storage

November 8, 2013

A University of Canterbury chemistry researcher is looking to develop game-changing ways of solving nanotechnology design problems, focusing particularly on developing alternative energy technologies.

Dr Deborah Crittenden has received $300,000 of Marsden funding to elucidate the fundamental principles of biological photosynthesis with a view to designing simpler chemical systems that work on the same principles.

She hopes that this could one day result in households having low-cost, high-efficiency and carbon-neutral solar energy capture, conversion and storage systems on their roofs.

Photosynthesis is the main way of converting light energy from the sun into electrical energy. Its main advantage over other electrical energy generation technologies such as solar panels, wind and geothermal, is that the electrical energy is further converted into chemical energy that can be stored for long periods of time until needed, Dr Crittenden says.

``Depending on how you look at it, photosynthesis is either remarkably efficient, converting almost 100 percent of photons from the sun into electrical current, or remarkably inefficient, only finally storing 3 percent of the total energy arriving on a leaf's surface, with a lot of energy going into making biochemical by-products and heat.

``Our aim is to beat photosynthesis at its own game, designing simpler chemical systems that:

-extract as much energy as possible from arriving photons to prevent this energy being lost as heat,

-retain the same 100 percent photon to free electron conversion rate and convert the electrical energy into chemical energy without wasting energy on biochemical by-products.

``To achieve this, we must first understand how the arrangement of atoms within the photosynthetic reaction centre leads to its ability to absorb light energy and liberate electrons to produce electrical current.

``This behaviour of electrons before, during and after absorption of light by a molecule is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Working out how these laws of quantum mechanics apply during photosynthesis sounds like a hard problem – because it is.

``At the moment, there aren't many good computational quantum chemical methods available for modelling the behaviour of electrons before and after absorption of light, and none that can be applied to systems as large as the photosynthetic reaction centre.

``The key innovation at the heart of this research project is developing a new mathematical and computational framework that will allow us to establish the link between molecular structure, photon absorption, electrical current production and the process of storing electrical energy by rearranging chemical bonds.

``The next step will be using this method to work out how to modify the arrangement of atoms to maximise the energy capture, conversion and storage efficiencies.

``This fundamental understanding will underpin the development of new low-cost, high-efficiency and energy storage technologies, which will be of significant environmental and economic importance, as the impact of increasing carbon dioxide emissions and the need to find alternative carbon neutral energy sources becomes ever more pressing.

``Meeting the world’s ever-increasing energy needs without increasing carbon dioxide emissions is one of the most pressing scientific and technological challenges of the modern age. Tapping solar energy is a potential solution, but robust, cost-effective solar technology has not yet been realised,’’ Dr Crittenden says.

Dr Deborah Crittenden

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Wine: 20% Of Marlborough Storage Tanks Damaged By Quake

An estimated 20 percent of wine storage tanks in the Marlborough region, the country’s largest wine producing area, have been damaged by the impact of the recent Kaikoura earthquake. More>>

ALSO:

ACC: Levy Recommendations For 2017 – 2019 Period

• For car owners, a 13% reduction in the average Motor Vehicle levy • For businesses, a 10% reduction in the average Work levy, and changes to workplace safety incentive products • For employees, due to an increase in claims volumes and costs, a 3% increase in the Earners’ levy. More>>

Women's Affairs: Government Accepts Recommendations On Pay Equity

The Government will update the Equal Pay Act and amend the Employment Relations Act to implement recommendations of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity. More>>

ALSO:

Immigration: Increase In Seasonal Workers For RSE

The current cap will be increased by 1,000 from 9,500 to 10,500 RSE workers for the 2016-17 season. Mr Woodhouse says the horticulture and viticulture industry is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry, producing almost $5 billion in exports. More>>

ALSO:

Hurunui: Crown Irrigation Invests Up To $3.4m In North Canterbury

Crown Irrigation Investments will invest up to $3.4m in the Hurunui Water Project, an irrigation scheme that will be capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury. More>>

ALSO:

Not So Great:Butterfly Eradication Success

The invasive pest great white butterfly has been eradicated from New Zealand in a world-first achievement, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry say. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Government’s Tax Cuts Fixation

Long before the earthquake hit, the dodginess of the government tax cuts programnme was evident in the language of its packaging. It is being touted as a “tax cuts and family care” package... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news