Finally: solar needles make fuel from water
It seems pure alchemy, but it’s solid science:
Researchers managed to create fuel directly from sunlight and water. In an article in Nature Communications last Friday, they presented nanowires, pulling hydrogen from water molecules.
The Eindhoven research group has made microscopic needles of gallium phosphide, which, like solar cells, generate electricity when exposed to light. Different from solar cells, this does not cause any flow, this can cleave water, to hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. Hydrogen can be used, as a fuel for special gas engines.
1 size fits all
Until now, hydrogen has been made through electrolysis of water with electricity, possibly from solar cells, but this requires two systems:
- the power source
- and a separate water clever
The process is now being brought together in one piece. The research group did realize a demonstration experiment in the lab.
There are ideas on polymer folies in which on both sides, the needles stabbing through it, serving as a membrane in a glass cell with water, issuing oxygen and hydrogen.
Solar needles directly give electrolysis. This is especially important because there is relatively little material needed. Gallium phosphide has been used in flat cells, but that is far too expensive for practical applications. The needles are thousands of times more efficient.
Interesting new technology
According to solar expert Wim Sinke of the ECN in Petten and the University of Amsterdam, the solar needles are an interesting addition to existing technologies in the solar energy.
“We can make all photovoltaic and solar heat. Solar fuels may be preferred in some situations. This seems to be an important new technology.”
The needles are not yet a replacement of solar cells, according to Sinke.
“Making hydrogen from large areas, has all kinds of technical snags and costs, you might prefer to avoid, by first making electricity and than produce fuel.
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