The Nanoptek Corporation out of Maynard, Massachusetts has found a way to produce cheap hydrogen using sunlight and water in their Solar Hydrogen Generator (SHG). The hydrogen is so cheap it is expected to be able to compete with hydrogen produced from the steam reforming of natural gas, the most popular and inexpensive method used today.
Another advantage of the Nanoptek system is that it can produce hydrogen onsite or near the location from where it will be dispensed in a decentralized fashion. This will cut down immensely on transportation costs.
The Nanoptek SHG also does not use electrolysis since it says that electrolysis is too inefficient and takes too much energy to split water. Instead, the Nanoptek method uses sunlight to stimulate titania, a cheap and abundant material, which in turn splits water.
Titania has been used since the 1970s as a photocatalyst, but Nanoptek is using a new process to stretch the atoms of the material thin, making it sensitive to visible light and not just ultraviolet light as been the case 30 years ago. The proprietary manufacturing process of the thin, nanostructured titania has caused venture capitalists to pour $4.7 million into the company so that Nanoptek can create its first pilot plant.