Australian Scientists Develop Catalyst to Turn Seawater Into Hydrogen Fuel
by Timon Singh, 06/13/13
A team of scientists from Australia’s University of Wollongong have developed a way to turn sea water into hydrogen in order to produce a virtually unlimited clean energy source. They believe that their system would allow five liters of sea water to produce enough hydrogen to power an average-sized home and an electric car for one day.
The team, based at Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), say they have developed a light-assisted catalyst that requires less energy input to activate water oxidation. This, they say, is the first step in splitting water to produce hydrogen fuel.
When it comes to the production of hydrogen fuel, the major limitation with current technologies is that the oxidation process needs a higher energy input than the resultant energy from the process. Also using abundant sea water has a drawback, because it produces poisonous chlorine gas.
However the team, led by Associate Professor Jun Chen and Professor Gerry Swiegers, have produced an artificial chlorophyll on a conductive plastic film that acts as a catalyst to begin splitting water.
Speaking in the journal Chemical Science, Professor Jun Chen said that the flexible polymer would enable a wider range of applications to be more easily created than metal semiconductors.
“The system we designed, including the materials, gives us the opportunity to design various devices and applications using sea water as a water-splitting source,” he said. “The flexible nature of the material also provides the possibility to build portable hydrogen-producing devices.”
ACES Executive Research Director Professor Gordon Wallace agreed with his colleague saying: “In today’s world the discovery of high performance materials is not enough. This must be coupled with innovative fabrication to provide practical high-performance devices and this work is an excellent example of that.”