Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Northeastern University have discovered an important finding on a nano scale in regard to solar to hydrogen production. The scientists have discovered that tiny amounts of potassium on the nanotubes help break the bonds of water, creating hydrogen in a more efficient manner.
Producing efficient solar nanotubes with large surface areas helps bring down the costs of using sunlight to split water via electrolysis and create hydrogen. The researchers were studying the effects of using titania (or titanium dioxide) and carbon on the nanotubes, when they stumbled upon a discovery when using an X-ray spectroscopy beamline at the NIST facility.
What they found was that during the fabrication process of the nanotubes using potassium salts, trace amounts of potassium ions were left behind. The scientists compared the nanotubes with and without potassium ions and found the ones with potassium ions to be one-third more efficient at producing hydrogen.
The efficient production of hydrogen from solar power is something that researchers around the world have been working on for the last decade. The discovery by NIST and Northeastern University may help commercialize cheap hydrogen production on a large scale in multiple locations and usher in the adoption of hydrogen cars much sooner than anticipated.