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The idea of using solar power to split hydrogen from water is one that many propose will make the hydrogen economy a reality. Naysayers point out that the solar power might be better spent just charging up electric cars or providing power to homes. But, what if there was a better way to use sunlight to extract hydrogen from water - one that didn't involve using solar cells at all. This is what researchers at Penn State University are working on. And, they might not be that far off, "only a few problems away", according to Craig Grimes, who is working on this project. Read more about the project here. According to the article, they may have found an "inexpensive and easily scalable technique for water photoelectrolysis - the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen using light energy - that could help power the proposed hydrogen economy." They are doing this by "the fabrication of thin films made of self-aligned, vertically oriented titanium iron oxide (Ti-Fe-O) nanotube arrays."

Again, we are not suggesting that anything like a complete "hydrogen economy" will be a reality any time soon, but it would be foolish to completely dismiss hydrogen from our future energy needs. Yes, today most of the hydrogen that is commercially available is recovered from natural gas, but researchers are working on methods like this one from Penn State that could change that.

[Source: Penn State]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 9 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Interesting thought, but flywheels use resources to manufacture as well, granted, it's a one time usage. But all in all, I don't think flywheels are a practical application. Don't forget, that flywheels can only work for so long because of earths rotation, and given the length of daylight, it may not be enough to last through the night in some parts of the country. I have some equipment at our facility where I use flywheels to store energy. They use about 10 households worth of energy per day and the flywheel only continues to run roughly an hour and a half after power has been shut off. That is with some VERY expensive bearings and it is a rediculously expensive system overall. I avoided the MSDS issues that batteries would have created, but at great cost.

      Here's some good info....
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flywheel_energy_storage
      • 7 Years Ago
      If the production of hydrogen could be made absolutely free, it would still be a lousy fuel for automotive use. It's too hard to contain and transport, and it's the most potent ozone-depletion chemical ever produced by man. And it would also be the most hazardous fuel available.

      "Naysayers point out that the solar power might be better spent just charging up electric cars or providing power to homes."

      Well, duh. Guess what, Sherlock: That is because it WOULD be better spent providing electricity or heat directly.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The one thing that really matters is cost - how much will H2 produced by this method cost? That in turn depends on the cost of the photolysis panels, their efficiency, how long they last, and how much maintenance is required. Those cost factors are not yet known.

      While I agree that H2 is a lousy automotive fuel, there are some good industrial uses for H2. If the cost of H2 via solar photolysis ends up less than the cost of H2 via steam reformed natural gas or coal, it could save considerable quantities of fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions, as well as saving money for some companies.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Presumably this only works for pure water? Although I think this could represent a huge step forward, given that the major hurdle for hydrogen is the manufacturing step, for the many communities worldwide who have restricted access to clean water this isn't likely to be of much use. If this were to work with seawater as well, then I would be very impressed.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The only thing that matters is: efficiency.

      The linked article seems a bit puzzling on the subject... perhaps due to me not being a native English speaker. Can somebody shed some light on how efficient the process is?

      From what I understood, it's still an electrolysis process that takes place.
      • 7 Years Ago
      That's an important breakthrough, i guess there is many ways of splitting water. There is some that do it with electrics waves too. It take few electric current. The future service stations, if there is someday, should produce hydrogen on the spot because it's true that hydrogen is hard to transport because it take a lot of space.
      • 7 Years Ago
      i still think ev's have a bigger future than fuel cells but this kind of tech i think shows promise for electricity generation
      • 7 Years Ago
      TX CHL Instructor, what do you propose then to store the electricity when the sun goes down? Batteries? Let's talk about how environmentally friendly they are.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Owen,

      what about flywheels?