Science 2 min read

Researchers Create Hydrogen Fuel From Sunlight

A new method of hydrogen fuel creation, discovered by a research team from the University of Exeter, could be the answer to the world's need for an alternative to fossil fuels. If scalable, this could be an infinite resource of clean and renewable energy.

Flaring, active regions of our sun are highlighted in this new image combining observations from several telescopes. High-energy X-rays from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) are shown in blue; low-energy X-rays from Japan's Hinode spacecraft are green; and extreme ultraviolet light from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is yellow and red. |
NASA | JPL-Caltech | GSFC | JAXA

Flaring, active regions of our sun are highlighted in this new image combining observations from several telescopes. High-energy X-rays from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) are shown in blue; low-energy X-rays from Japan's Hinode spacecraft are green; and extreme ultraviolet light from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is yellow and red. | NASA | JPL-Caltech | GSFC | JAXA

Researchers from the University of Exeter recently developed a method for producing hydrogen fuel from sunlight.

According to reports, this research team was able to create an innovative method to separate hydrogen and oxygen in water with the help of sunlight. The process produces hydrogen fuel that could potentially power homes and vehicles.

Furthermore, the researchers claim that the fuel created using the process, known as the synthetic photosynthesis method, could significantly reduce carbon emissions. As well as being a clean form of energy, it is also a virtually limitless energy source.

The study focuses on the utilization of a photo-electrode which absorbs light “before initializing electrochemical transformations to extract the hydrogen from water.” The revolutionary electrode is reportedly made from lanthanum, iron, and oxygen nanoparticles.

“With growing economies and population, fossil fuels will not be able to sustain the global energy demand in a “clean” manner as they are being exhausted at an alarming rate,” Govinder Pawar, lead author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, said.

“Alternative renewable fuels sources must be found which can sustain the global energy demand. Hydrogen is a promising alternative fuel source capable of replacing fossil fuels as it has a higher energy density than fossil fuels (more than double), zero carbon emissions and the only by-product is water.”

To date, about 80 percent of the world’s energy comes from burning fossil fuels. Pawar and his team’s discovery could provide a more sustainable and cost-efficient source of renewable fuel.

While the sun is considered the most abundant source of renewable energy here on Earth, efforts to develop an efficient semiconductor material to harness its power have been futile. As a solution to this problem, the research team made use of lanthanum iron oxide to create the needed semiconducting material for their method.

“We have shown that our LaFeO3 photo-electrode has ideal band alignments needed to split water into its constituents (H2 and O2) spontaneously, without the need of an external bias,” Pawar explained.

“Moreover, our material has excellent stability where after 21 hours of testing it does not degrade, ideal for water splitting purpose. We are currently working on further improving our material to make it more efficient to produce more hydrogen.”

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Rechelle Ann Fuertes

Rechelle is an SEO content producer, technical writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with family and friends.

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