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

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: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>