Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory have discovered that microorganisms that live in desert salt flats are using sunlight to produce hydrogen. And if coaxed, these bacteriorhodopsin that live in the hottest areas of California and Nevada, could be persuaded to produce large amounts of hydrogen fuel.
According to Argonne, “Argonne nanoscientist Elena Rozhkova and her colleagues combined a pigment called bacteriorhodopsin with semiconducting nanoparticles to create a system that uses light to spark a catalytic process that creates hydrogen fuel.
“Scientists have been aware of the potential of titanium dioxide nanoparticles for light-based reactions since the early 1970s, when Japanese researchers discovered that a titanium dioxide electrode exposed to bright ultraviolet light could split water molecules in a phenomenon that came to be known as the Honda-Fujishima effect. Since then, scientists have made continuous efforts to extend the light reactivity of titanium dioxide photocatalysts into the visible part of the spectrum. The promise of these photocatalysts prompted scientists to experiment with different modifications to their basic chemistry in hope of making the reaction more efficient, Rozhkova said.”
So, the Argonne researchers decided to combine bacteriorhodopsin, titanium dioxide photocatalysts and “small platinum sites” in order to be able to use visible light instead of just ultraviolet light to create hydrogen from salt water. Now one has to wonder if a similar system would be able to use salt water from our vast oceans to create hydrogen fuel as well since this could be a game changer in regard to creating massive amounts of hydrogen cheaply.