Widespread use of fuel cells will rely on cheap sources of hydrogen and oxygen. Researchers at MIT have now made an oxygen-producing catalyst that operates on water in a neutral environment (pH 7 at atmospheric pressure) and can be coupled with solar cells; it's essentially a man-made equivalent to photosynthesis.
Platinum has been used as a catalyst for this reaction in the past, but the costs associated with platinum (it closed today at over $1,730 per ounce) have prompted efforts to eliminate its use. The new research describes the formation of a catalyst composed of a combination of cobalt, potassium, and phosphorous—all cheap and easy to obtain. The researchers found that two different inert electrodes would, when placed into a dilute solution containing cobalt and buffered with potassium phosphate, spontaneously form a coating of the catalyst. When provided with relatively low electrical potentials, such as those obtained from a solar cell, the catalyst would liberate oxygen gas by splitting the water that was acting as a solvent.
Interesting stuff; do go and have a read.
You see? We are moving away from oil, the high price of which is helping to make these technologies economically viable and thus worth investing in. At the same time, there are engineering problems to overcome: we will solve them, but we really need some stop-gap powerstations to stop the lights going out in the meantime...
But what I like about such articles is that they are positive; green activists are always so fucking negative. Their attitude is all about cutting back on our lifestyles, not travelling so much, switching off this and rationing that. They are depressing cunts whose ultimate aim seems to be to drive us back to the agrarian Dark Ages (where, of course, we will all be vegans) and then to ensure that we still feel guilty about the fact that our horses fart.
Those of us who put our faith in technology are fundamentally more optimistic. And imaginative.