Researchers create hydrogen fuel from thin air using solar

Hydrogen molecules up close (pilbara)
Image: Shutterstock

Australian researchers have created a solar-powered device that produces hydrogen fuel directly from moisture in the air, according to The Guardian.

The prototype produces hydrogen of more than 99% purity and can work in air that is as dry as 4% relative humidity. Best of all, the solar-powered device would allow hydrogen to be produced without carbon emissions even in regions where water on land is scarce.

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Hydrogen is a zero-carbon fuel that yields only water as a byproduct when combusted, and large-scale production often involves fossil fuels that generate emissions.

The study’s lead author and a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne, Dr Gang Kevin Li, said the prototype device—which produced hydrogen for more than 12 consecutive days in a monitored trial—could be powered by solar or wind power.

“Hydrogen is the ultimate clean energy … as long as you have renewable sources of energy to electrolyse the water,” Dr Li said.

The prototypes are still only small in size, and the team has plans to create 1sqm and 10sqm units within the next 12 months.

The researchers envisage the device could be a useful tool in regions where liquid water is not readily available for producing hydrogen.

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“Large parts of the world have water scarcity problems,” Li said.

“When you have lots of renewable energy—wind or solar—you [often] don’t have much fresh water for this type of hydrogen production.”

Read the full article here.

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