Neil Young once sang, “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.” But that’s not how the researchers at Technion see it in regard to hydrogen production.
The Technion team from Israel is using a combination of solar energy, photoelectrolysis, iron oxide (rust), and ultrathin films at a nanoscale to produce hydrogen cheaply and efficiently.
According to Times of Israel, “In order to produce hydrogen, you need to split water into its components, oxygen and hydrogen. In commercial hydrogen production, that work is done at hydrogen production plants powered by fossil fuels, with the hydrogen transported to where it can be used – itself a major headache, because you have to build special, expensive pipes to resist hydrogen’s corrosive properties.
“The Technion-developed solution avoids both those issues by utilizing the process of photoelectrolysis, using solar power to generate power to divide water molecules. Using photoelectrolysis, the Technion team’s approach solves both the storage and the electricity generation problem in hydrogen production, said Rothschild. ‘Our approach is the first of its kind. We have found a way to trap light in ultrathin films of iron oxide that are 5,000 thinner than an office paper. This enables achieving high solar energy conversion efficiency and low materials and production costs.’”
Now many battery electric car advocates will state that they would prefer that solar energy be used directly to charge a battery inside a car rather than the produce hydrogen. That rationale however doesn’t hold water when the solar panels (or thin film) is immersed inside of the water creating a reaction to produce hydrogen.
Now, I’ve talked before about a couple of different studies using photoelectrocatalytics using sunlight and water to create hydrogen. This area holds a lot of promise for creating hydrogen onsite and on-demand for vehicles and other applications. My personal belief is that we’re just around the corner from a massive game-changing breakthrough in this area.