From my old alma mater, MIT chemist Dan Nocera has developed a method to store energy that mimics photosynthesis – by splitting water.
The key is having the right catalyst, and one that is cheap to make and maintain. In this case, a film of cobalt and phosphate coating an electrode. When fed a modest electric current, say from a solar panel, water is split into oxygen and hydrogen gas. This doesn’t produce energy, it just stores it in the form of two gases. When the sun goes down, the H2 can be oxidised with a fuel cell, producing electricity and water again, and the cycle can be repeated the next day.
Nocera is very gung ho about improving the human condition and educating young minds:
“In the energy game, young people can choose lots of different paths. I’m just asking them to save the world.”