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

 

Negotiations Fail: Christchurch Convention Centre Build To Proceed Without PCNZ

After protracted negotiations, the government has ditched the construction consortium it picked to build Christchurch's replacement convention centre, which it now anticipates delivering at least two years behind the original schedule. More>>

ALSO:

Ruataniwha: Greenpeace Launches Legal Challenge Against $1b Dam Plan

Greenpeace NZ is launching a legal challenge against a controversial plan to build a dam that’s set to cost close to $1 billion and will pollute a region’s rivers. More>>

ALSO:

Inequality: Top 10% Of Housholds Have Half Of Total Net Worth

The average New Zealand household was worth $289,000 in the year to June 2015, Statistics New Zealand said today. However wealth was not evenly distributed, with the top 10 percent accounting for around half of total wealth. In contrast, the bottom 40 percent held 3 percent of total wealth. More>>

ALSO:

What Winter? Temperature Records Set For June 20-22

The days around the winter soltice produced a number of notably warm tempertaures. More>>

Conservation Deal: New Kākāpō Recovery Partnership Welcomed

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says the new kakapo recovery partnership between DOC and Meridian Energy is great news for efforts to save one of New Zealand’s most beloved birds. More>>

ALSO:

Tech Sector Report: Joyce Warns Asian Tech Investors View NZ As Hobbits And Food

Speaking in Wellington at the launch of a report showcasing the value of the technology sector to the New Zealand economy, Joyce said more had to be done to tell the country's technology stories overseas. More>>

ALSO:

Mediaglommeration: APN Gets OIO Approval For Demerger Plan

APN News & Media has received Overseas Investment Office approval for its plan to split out its NZME unit ahead of a potential merger with rival Fairfax Media's New Zealand operations. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news