University of Central Florida researchers are claiming that a new substance has been created that extracts hydrogen a lot more efficiently from seawater than the current methods do. This has the potential of turning hydrogen fuel cell technology into a viable alternative to current fossil fuels.
Energy & Environmental Science published the new paper that states that the new nanomaterial is an ultrathin titanium dioxide film that has nanocavities that are etched in it. The cavities are coated with molybdenum disulfide flakes that are only an atom wide.
The new material is a solar catalyst that uses power from sunlight in order to transform water in seawater into oxygen and hydrogen, which are its constituent parts.
Phys.org reports that Yang Yang, who was head of the research team from the University of Central Florida, said that their new hydrogen production method is a breakthrough since they opened the window for splitting real water, instead of only purified water inside of a lab.
This new nanomaterial also utilises sunlight better than current materials, since it is sensitive to everything that is within the spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet light.
Currently the team in Florida is working on scaling the fabrication up to commercial levels, as well as working on refining their new technology’s performance.
Several automakers, including Honda and Toyota, are making major investments into hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to create the future’s emissions-free cars.
Inside of hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen gets drawn from its on-board reservoir and then it mixed with the atmosphere’s oxygen in order to create energy. This is then used for driving an electric motor. Water coming from the tailpipe is the only emissions.
Although fuel cell technology has continued to advance, the most critical element of all has perhaps been missing: an easily accessible and affordable hydrogen fuel supply, preferably that can be produced with only minimal environmental impact.
Hydrogen is the universe’s most abundant element, however on Earth it mainly exists in compounds. It usually requires large amounts of energy to extract hydrogen from the compounds.
To make things even more complicated, there is a lack of infrastructure for producing hydrogen as well as storing, delivering and selling commercial quantities of it.