Tata Signs up MIT Energy Guru for Power from Water
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Bangalore: In the first such effort, Tata group chairman Ratan Tata has signed on a leading scientist from the globally renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to commercialize cutting-edge research that promises to produce cheap power from water.
Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry and energy, and his group of elite scientists at MIT attracted attention from Tata when he heard they had found a way towards one of science’s holy grails-to imitate photosynthesis, the process by which plants breathe, and produce power while doing so.
“I met him in September, and in October we signed,” Nocera said on the sidelines of EmTech India, a technology conference organized by MIT’s magazine for innovation, Technology Review.
Nocera would not disclose any more details of the deal. “I think you should ask Mr Tata that,” he said, before flying to Mumbai to meet Tata on Monday.
As he did with the Nano small car and the Swach non-electric water purifier, Tata hopes Nocera’s solution will be the latest in the group’s effort to serve the “bottom of the pyramid” and turn a profit while doing so, said a Tata group executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Tata’s hope is that Nocera’s “personalized energy” can produce a stand-alone, mini-power plant, perhaps a refrigerator-sized box, that could reinvent rural electricity supply and bring power to about three billion people worldwide who don’t have it.
Nocera said MIT’s technique has seen more than a year of preliminary research and hopes to produce enough electricity from a bottle-and-half of water, however dirty, to power a small home.