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Toshiba develops portable solar-powered hydrogen system for use in fuel cells

Toshiba Corp. has developed a system to produce hydrogen from water using sunlight. (Provided by Toshiba Corp.)

Toshiba Corp. has developed a system to produce hydrogen from water using sunlight. (Provided by Toshiba Corp.)

Toshiba Corp. has developed an energy supply system that may be the ultimate in eco-friendliness because it uses only sunlight and water, with no carbon dioxide emissions, to produce hydrogen.

Moreover, the system has a portable component that allows it to be transported to disaster-hit areas where normal utilities may not be operating.

The system involves using solar power to generate electricity, which is used to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen can be stored in tanks and used in fuel cells to generate electricity and heat water during emergencies.

“Once the technology progresses further, we will be able to apply it to storage batteries for large-scale solar generation facilities (that can only generate power during the day) and hydrogen stations to refuel fuel-cell vehicles,” said company President Hisao Tanaka.

Toshiba plans to begin selling the system in fiscal 2015.

The unit fits into the containers normally used by ships, trains and trucks to store and transport cargo, allowing for easier transport to disaster-hit areas.

Because one unit is expected to cost several hundreds of millions of yen, the company is planning to sell the equipment primarily to local governments.

The hydrogen stored in one tank is enough for 300 evacuees to survive for one week at a minimum level of subsistence.

Hydrogen is currently extracted from gas used in public utilities or liquefied petroleum gas, but carbon dioxide is emitted in the process.

By SHIGEO OHATA/ Staff Writer

November 18, 2014 - 10:42 AM