No, not that way!
Two chemists at MIT announced today that they have discovered what appears to be a new kind of catalyst that allows for a process called "water splitting." This process mimics what green plants do as part of the photosynthetic process--they split molecules of water into their component hydrogen and oxygen atoms and then store energy in the bonds holding the hydrogen and oxygen molecules together until that energy is needed, at which point the plant cell catalyzes the reduction of hydrogen and oxygen back into water. Ridiculously easy to do inside a plant cell. Tremendously difficult to accomplish anywhere else--at least as long as you insist on the reaction happening at normal or ambient conditions and in a neutral or relatively mild environment.
Perhaps not anymore. The chemists, Matthew Kanan and Daniel Nocera, published a paper today in the online edition of Science (which means it's got legs--Science rejects something like 98% of the papers submitted to it for publication) announcing such a catalyst that is apparently a complex of cobalt and phosphorus, with a little potassium thrown in for good measure. (If you have a subscription to Science, you can read a news brief about the discovery or the full paper.) If you're not able to get access to Science, there are stories at the Boston Globe, Forbes, and Science Daily, among other sites.
There are still bugs to work out with this discovery, and the discoverers themselves aren't entirely sure how or why it works--but it does work, at least on a laboratory scale. And unlike the constant whining from the Boy Who Won't Be King Much Longer about drilling for oil offshore, this discovery does seem to have the potential to do something about ameliorating our energy issues. Imagine what we might now be seeing if the Hedgemony hadn't been so eager to slash alternative energy research funding in order to give even more corporate welfare to Big Oil. I find it ironic that this discovery was announced on the same day that ExxonMobil reported second-quarter profits of $11.68 billion and a 14% rise in income over last year. Funding for the National Science Foundation, on the other hand, has been effectively flat for the last three years. Seems to me that we have our priorities in the wrong place.
(Hat-tip to litho at Big Orange.)