Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Water power

06.12.2001


Hydrogen power could have a bright future.
© DOE/NREL


A new material helps to make clean fuel from water.

Scientists in Japan have found a more efficient way to extract hydrogen, the ultimate ’green’ fuel, from water. They have developed a material that uses sunlight to break water molecules into their constituent elements of hydrogen and oxygen1.

The material is not yet efficient enough to be commercially viable, but its inventors believe that it can be improved. If they are right, hydrogen may soon be on tap just like natural gas.



Hydrogen burns in air without producing the sooty pollution and greenhouse gases associated with fossil fuels. The element can also power fuel cells to generate electricity. Such fuel cells can power emission-free electric vehicles.

Unfortunately, water is reluctant to give up its hydrogen. Electricity can split water, but electricity is mainly generated using polluting and nonrenewable technology.

Several ’photocatalysts’ will split water quite efficiently using ultraviolet light. But this squanders most of the Sun’s energy, which lies in the visible range. Visible-light photocatalysts, on the other hand, have tended to be either unstable, decomposing with prolonged use, or bad at splitting water.

Zhigang Zou of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan, and co-workers have developed a photocatalyst that seems to be very stable, showing no evidence of degradation after extended use. It is not terribly efficient - over 99% of the light energy is wasted rather than used to split water - but this is respectable when compared with the competition.

The material, like the majority of visible-light photocatalysts, is a metal oxide, which generates hydrogen and oxygen when immersed in water in sunlight. The oxide contains indium, nickel and tantalum; the efficiency depends on the amount of nickel in the material.

Zou and colleagues believe that they can improve the efficiency by increasing the surface area of the photocatalyst - making it porous, for example, or grinding it into a fine powder - and by further tinkering with the chemical composition.

References

  1. Zou, Z., Ye, J., Sayama, K. & Arakawa, H. Direct splitting of water under visible light irradiation with an oxide semiconductor photocatalyst. Nature, 414, 625 - 627, (2001).


PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011206/011206-11.html

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Linear potentiometer LRW2/3 - Maximum precision with many measuring points
17.05.2017 | WayCon Positionsmesstechnik GmbH

nachricht First flat lens for immersion microscope provides alternative to centuries-old technique
17.05.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>